US Embassy closes after NY carnage

PHUKET (Gazette, AFP): American citizens have been asked to refrain from calling their embassy in Bangkok following the carnage in New York City and Washington. Will Hebler, American Consular Warden in Phuket, told the Gazette, “I have received a call to say that the US embassy in Bangkok is closed until further notice. “A desk is manned, but US citizens are urged not to call the embassy, so that phone lines can be kept clear. “Naturally, this means that there will be no issuing of visas or other normal consular services for the time being.” Thai authorities have thrown up a security cordon around the embassy, the second biggest US Embassy in the world, amid the global alert following yesterday’s terrorist attacks in which two hijacked commercial aircraft were crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and one into the Pentagon in Washington. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has also ordered a heightened security presence at every foreign mission in the country, Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai told reporters. Thai police chief General Pornsak Durongkavibulya said a 100-member SWAT team, including police snipers, had been deployed at the embassy. “Specially trained police have been placed around the embassy and we have blocked all traffic from surrounding streets,” Pornsak told reporters. Security at the US consulates in the northern city of Chiang Mai, and Songkhla in the south, was also beefed up with checkpoints erected around the buildings, he added. Pornsak said the arrangements were made after Thai authorities spoke with US Ambassador to Thailand Richard Hecklinger, who advised them that US embassies worldwide were on the alert for possible attacks. The Bangkok embassy is a major center for US operations in the Asia-Pacific and is the second-largest US mission in the world after the Cairo embassy. By late yesterday barricades had been erected outside the steel gates of the mission, and embassy staff were conferring with Thai police outside, witnesses said. Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said Thaksin had expressed his deep concern over the attacks, and planned to send his condolences to the United States government today. “This is an unprecedented incident, particularly in a country which has such tight security. We hope this situation will not escalate,” Surakiart said. “Thailand is ready to help the United States as much as we can, particularly with regard to security for its embassy here.” With all commercial aircraft in the United States grounded, it is not yet known what will happen to US-bound flights that were due to take off from Bangkok’s international airport this morning, an airport spokesperson said.

Phuket News
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