Europeans warned over Thai tensions

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Britain, France and Austria on Thursday warned their citizens visiting Thailand to stay away from political protests in Bangkok as they could turn violent.

Britain warned its nationals against all but essential travel to the Thai capital due to the "increasingly volatile" situation on the streets.

"This advice reflects our concern for the safety of British nationals planning to travel to Bangkok, given the risk that violence could break out without warning during the increasingly volatile political crisis," the Foreign Office said.

"The situation is changing on a daily basis, and we recommend that British nationals living in Thailand or travelling to the country check the travel advice on the Foreign Office website regularly for details of further developments."

Around 812,000 British nationals visited Thailand in 2008, the Foreign Office said, citing Tourism Authority of Thailand figures.

French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said in a statement: "We advise our compatriots to exercise the utmost caution and in particular not to go to places where there are political gatherings."

He expressed concern over stern warnings by Thai army spokesman Sunsern Kaewkumnerd that force could be used in a crackdown against anti-government protestors in Bangkok.

"We reiterate our call to the authorities and protestors to act responsibly," Valero said. "It is more indispensable than ever for dialogue to prevail over confrontation."

Austria's foreign ministry also issued a travel warning, advising against any unnecessary trip to the Thai capital, citing a "high security risk for the greater Bangkok area".

A series of grenade blasts ripped through a pro-government rally in Bangkok Thursday, leaving three dead and 70 injured, including foreigners, in the latest bloodshed in the heart of the Thai capital.

The authorities said five grenades were fired from within the anti-government Red Shirt protesters' sprawling encampment, which has been fortified in recent days with sharpened bamboo stakes and piles of car tyres.

The protesters are occupying an area in central Bangkok, demanding immediate elections.

According to a Western diplomat who asked not to be named, one Japanese and one Australian were believed to be among the injured. The United Nations and the United States urged all sides to exercise restraint.

© 2010 AFP

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