Mal Vivian caught in civil unrest

AS smoke covered the city of Bangkok and the civil unrest continued to loom, Allora’s Mal Vivian waited to escape the madness.

After jetting off to Thailand for a trip of a lifetime last month, Mr Vivian expected to catch his flight Sunday night to his next destination London to spend two years on a working holiday.

But his holiday was interrupted by a natural disaster and riots, with his mum Robyn waiting at home in Allora yesterday to hear her son had left the devastation and was safely on the next leg of his journey.

“He should be on a flight out (last night). The thing is not knowing how long he will be there – I just want him out of that place,” Mrs Vivian said.

His flight was delayed from Sunday night due to the volcanic ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul Volcano, which continued to erupt and resulted in the closure of Heathrow Airport.

“I have spent a month here and I was very excited to leave, I am stressed and anxious because I don’t know how long I will be here for,” Mr Vivian told the Daily News yesterday.

“If I am here longer than today I can’t do anything as Bangkok is shut down.

“There are a lot of people with machine guns. The atmosphere is suffocating.

“Driving through the streets, it’s eerie, there are red shirt camps (anti-government protesters), streets with hundreds of cop cars, army cars and main roads blocked off.”

The Red Shirts consider the government illegitimate because it came to power in a 2008 parliamentary vote after a court ruling ousted elected allies of their hero, telecoms tycoon turned former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The government extended a state of emergency to five more provinces, ordered schools to stay shut yesterday and declared two days of national holidays to keep civilians off the streets as they battled for control of the city.

When they were told their flight was delayed Mr Vivian said everyone was nervous and worried about how long they were going to be stuck for with no information about new flights.

“A poor older lady who was very stressed I took under my wing. The Emirates staff were doing a great job though organising everything,” he said.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told reporters in Perth on Monday that Canberra urged the Thai government and protest leaders to negotiate and resolve the matter.

“Any Australian in Thailand, we urge them to avoid the sites of protests or military cordons,” he said.

Mr Vivian said everyone has strongly advised not to go near the riot areas and the only time he has felt nervous was leaving for the drive to the airport on Sunday where he saw a lot of smoke and fires all over the city.

“Thailand is dead, hotels I have been staying at around the country have only had our tour group in them; Thai people who I have spoke to say tourism is way down because of riots,” Mr Vivian said.

Mr Vivian said he wasn’t too worried overall as Emirates has taken care of everything and he hoped to be on another flight last night.

“I’m safe in the hotel, but I just want to leave; it feels like something is brewing and I don’t want to be here,” he said.

– Additional reporting by AAP

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