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S'poreans still heading for Bangkok

Just five minutes before checking in for her 6.35pm Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight to Bangkok, her phone rang.

It was her parents trying to dissuade her from going to the Thai capital as the country is currently under martial law.

But Mrs Christina Ong, 48, a housewife, insisted on going back to Bangkok as her daughter's examinations start next week.

Her husband works there and they live there. She came back to Singapore to attend her son's national service Passing-Out Parade.

"I have been calling my Thai friends for updates on the situation. They said the airport is open although traffic is chaotic. Students were late for school because of road blockades," she said.

Mrs Ong also dissuaded a friend from accompanying her to Bangkok in case a coup occurred while they were there.

Another person who desperately needed to go to Bangkok was Burmese national Min Ko, 43, captain of a chemical tanker who has been working in and around Singapore for the last 20 years.

His nine-year-old son, who was living in Myanmar, had been admitted to a Bangkok hospital with acute renal failure.

A group of four friends did not want to change their travel plans again - they had postponed their three-day trip in February.

Ms Eileen Phua, 37, who works in retail, said they had done their checks before deciding to go ahead.

She said: "We kept checking the news online. Yesterday, we even called our Thai driver to make sure the area is safe."

She and her friends left on a 4pm SIA flight yesterday and plan to shop and pray while there.

They are keeping to shopping in Platinum Mall at Petchburi Road near the downtown area, which they hope will be safer than other areas affected by protests.

Meanwhile, National University of Singapore undergraduate Paige Lim, 20, is hoping that martial law will be lifted by the time her trip rolls around.

She had booked tickets in March for a five-day July trip to Bangkok for shopping and the nightlife there.

She said: "I am 80 per cent sure that I will go. I will be very disappointed if the martial law enforces curfews on the night clubs, but I will still go because shopping is my top priority."

DROP IN DEMAND

An SIA spokesman said its 35 weekly flights to Bangkok are "currently operating as scheduled". However, the spokesman added that "demand has been affected...in recent months".

Travel agencies agreed that travel demand to Bangkok has dropped.

Ms Alicia Seah, director of marketing communications from Dynasty Travel, said that out of 300 customers to Bangkok in June and July, 60 per cent have opted to holiday in Phuket, Malaysia and Bali instead.

Mr Ian Tan, senior manager for marketing and public relations at CTC Travel also said that out of their 40 to 50 customers travelling in June, only 10 per cent are going to Bangkok. There has also been an up to 50 per cent drop in bookings for Bangkok.

At Nam Ho Travel agency, sales show that majority of tourists travelling to Thailand are going to Chiangmai.

Chan Brothers, one of the largest tour agencies here, said that none of their travellers to Bangkok have cancelled their bookings. But it has also experienced an overall drop in demand for Bangkok tours.

Mrs Ong advises tourists to avoid Bangkok for now.

She said: "The Thais are gracious people but the political situation is poor."