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Taiwanese tour groups head to Bangkok despite protests

TAIPEI -- The Tourism Bureau said yesterday that tour groups are traveling to Bangkok as scheduled despite protesters' threats to paralyze the capital in pushing for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign, but it vowed to closely monitor the situation.

Monday's upheaval was the latest chapter in an eight-year conflict pitting Bangkok's middle-class and royalist establishment against the mostly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her self-exiled brother and former prime minister, billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra.

The Tourism Bureau said the situation in Bangkok has deteriorated as protesters began a blockade of major intersections in Bangkok, and 45 countries issued travel warnings for the country.

“We are still in the stage of observation,” the bureau said, adding that it has notified nine major local travel agencies that operate Bangkok tours to be on guard.

Based on the bureau's information, there were 61 Taiwanese tourists with three tour groups in Bangkok on Monday, and none of them had been affected by the protests.

Another 208 Taiwanese from eight tour groups were scheduled to travel to Bangkok Tuesday, and the groups were expected to change their itineraries to avoid places where the demonstrations are being held.

Tour operators said their tours were centered on Pattaya, and only their itineraries in Bangkok have had to be adjusted.

Roget Hsu, secretary-general of the Travel Agent Association of the Republic of China, said the latest disruptions have not had much of an impact on tours to Thailand as visitor numbers to the country had already fallen since the protests began in late 2013.

Tour operators and airlines were still worried, however, about the impact the protests could have during the Chinese New Year holiday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a yellow travel alert to Thailand, urging people to heed their safety and reconsider if they want to travel to the country.

MOFA has a four-color travel alert system, with red the highest level of alert, followed by orange, yellow and gray.

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