Two stranded Canadians killed in Thai van crash

Mon Dec 1, 2008 11:22pm EST
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BANGKOK (Reuters) - Two Canadians who were among thousands of foreigners stranded by anti-government protests in Bangkok were killed when their van crashed on the way to catch a flight out of Thailand, police said on Tuesday.

Four other tourists were injured in the crash, which happened as they made the 900 km (560 miles) drive from Bangkok to the southern resort town of Phuket.

They were making the trip because they could not fly out of Bangkok's besieged Suvarnabhumi airport, which has been shut by thousands of protesters seeking to oust Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.

Tens of thousands of frustrated tourists delayed for days by the protests, which have closed Suvarnabhumi and Bangkok's main domestic airport, have been seeking alternative ways out of Thailand.

The injured included three Canadians and a Briton, police Sub-Lieutenant Chakrit Nina told Reuters.

"It is still to be determined whether the Thai driver dozed off during the long ride or, to take his word, he was attempting to avoid a pothole and a car," the officer said.

The driver passed an initial breath test but was detained for reckless driving causing death and injuries, Chakrit said.

The Bangkok-Phuket highway is one of the busiest routes in the country. It is mostly a dual carriageway but accidents and breakdowns occur frequently. It takes about 10 hours to do the journey by car, longer by van or bus.

Most of the stranded tourists are attempting to leave via the Vietnam War-era U-Tapao military airbase around 200 km (150 miles) from the capital, but others are trying via Phuket or Chiang Mai in the north.

In a statement on Monday, Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said there were around 1,000 Canadians affected in Thailand.

(Reporting by Vithoon Amorn; Editing by David Fox and Paul Tait)