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Video by Christopher MOORE

Latest update : 2008-12-04

The first international flight to leave Bangkok took off after an eight-day blockade by anti-government protestors. Some 350,000 tourists remain stranded in the country.

Read more on the origins and goals of the Thai protest movement

AFP - A Thai Airways flight to Sydney left Bangkok's main international airport Wednesday, the first international departure since protesters ended an eight-day blockade, an AFP reporter witnessed.
The flag carrier's flight left Suvarnabhumi international airport at about 6:45 pm (1145 GMT) carrying 388 passengers, many of them Australian tourists stranded by the airport closures, airline officials said.
Protesters gave up their siege of Suvarnabhumi and the smaller Don Mueang domestic airport after a court on Tuesday dissolved the ruling party and forced out the prime minister, one of the key demands of the demonstrators.
Suvarnabhumi has been closed since the evening of November 25.
About 350,000 passengers are estimated to have missed flights out of the kingdom due to the closures, and until Wednesday were being ferried slowly out of a naval base southeast of Bangkok and a handful of regional airports.
Tourists on the Sydney flight were relieved to be heading home, but said they would remember Thailand fondly, despite the political chaos.
"It's an interesting time for Thailand. I don't feel angry, we have been treated very well. I would love to come back," said Paul from New Zealand, who gave his first name only.
Passenger Brad Wheeler, from Australia, also said he was "very happy" to be leaving the kingdom.
"It's really good to go back home. I will come back, the closure did not scare me," said Wheeler.
An Australian woman who did not give her name told AFP: "I want to say only that it's good to go home."
Five more Thai Airways international flights are due to leave Suvarnabhumi later Wednesday and very early Thursday, flying to New Delhi, Narita in Japan, Frankfurt, Seoul and Copenhagen.
Suvarnabhumi is still not fully operational, however, with passengers having to check in at a convention centre east of Bangkok.
Airport authorities say they hope the have check-in desks and immigration up and running again on Thursday. Don Mueang is also due to reopen on Thursday.

Date created : 2008-12-03