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Thai PM rejects army call for fresh elections 27/11/2008

Thai prime minister Somchai Wongsawat has addressed the nation, dismissing a call by the country's army chief to hold fresh elections and resolve a months-long political crisis.

He says his government was democratically elected and will continue to work for the good of the country.

The prime minister also says the Thai cabinet will hold an emergency meeting later on Thursday to discuss "measures" against protesters in Bangkok who have broken the law.

Returning from the APEC summit in Peru, Mr Somchai was forced to land in the northern city of Chiang Mai as anti-government protesters have taken over the international airport in Bangkok.

The airport has cancelled all flights, leaving about three thousand foreign tourists stranded.

Our reporter Karen Percy says the kingdom's most senior military man the Chief of the Army, General Anupong Paochinda, says parliament should be dissolved and new elections held to end a six-month long political stalemate.

Earlier a spokesman for the PAD, Parnthep Pourpongpan told Radio Australia's Asia Pacific program the protesters will not leave the airport until the Prime Minister resigns.

Tourism officials have warned the political strife that has shut down Thailand's main international airport could devastate the kingdom's tourism industry, already battered by global financial woes.

Media around the world has carried footage of tourists trying to sleep on baggage carousels while protesters massed outside.

The president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents says foreigners have lost their confidence to travel to Thailand.

The director of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, Dale Lawrence, has described the storming of the airport as "another kick in the teeth for Thailand tourism."

The Australian government says it's monitoring the political situation in Thailand.

The trade minister, Simon Crean, has reissued a plea to travellers to exercise a high degree of caution and to avoid large gatherings.

Mr Crean also says extra foreign affairs department staff have been rostered to deal with inquiries from Australians affected by protests at the airport.

"Some Australians, including those in transit have been affected by flight disruptions. The Australian embassy is maintaining close contact with local authorities and consular officers have been stationed in Bangkok international airport to assist Australians and liaise with the airlines."

Produced by Radio Australia and Australia Network

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