LODI (WKOW) -- It appears that a group of Lodi High School exchange students currently stuck in Suphan Buri, Thailand will have to take a bus out of that country.
Anti-government protests shut down the two airports in Bangkok on Tuesday. Even though Thailand's prime minister declared a state of emergency at the airports, police have yet to remove thousands of protestors who are clogging the terminals, cancelling flights in the process.
The dispute has caused a group of nine exchange students and three advisors from Lodi to miss their planned flight back this holiday weekend. On Thursday, Lodi principal Laura Love told us the back-up plan would include the students flying back this Monday, December 1, assuming the airports open up by then.
A recent blog update from one of the students, Max Love, Friday night said they would take a bus down to the resort city of Phuket. "Protesting is escalating, so it's good we're going this route," he wrote. "The leaders of the protest said they will withstand the police and government until the death. A bit drastic but we'll see what happens. "
Jacob Steiner, an acquaintance of that student, told us he contacted Max Love on Friday through email. Steiner tells us after reaching Phuket, the group will then take another bus 1,100 miles to Singapore. They would then fly from Singapore back to the United States on Monday, December 8.
LODI (WKOW) -- Thousands of anti-government protestors in Thailand filled Bangkok's airports on Tuesday. They're demanding the prime minister Somchai Wongsawat resign, calling him corrupt. The standoff, in which members of the People's Alliance for Democracy all wore yellow shirts and jammed airport terminals, has led to a cancellation of all flights ever since.
Caught in limbo are nine Lodi High School students and three staff members. They're part of an exchange program that started last year.
The group has spent the past three weeks, studying in the small city of Suphan Buri, Thailand. Their plane was slated to leave Thursday. They would have returned home on Friday. All that has changed since the protests began.
"The students and the staff members who are there feel very, very safe," said high school principal Laura Love.
That reassurance doesn't make this Thanksgiving weekend any more festive for families in Lodi. Love is also the mother of two of the students. Her son Max is a senior. Love's daughter Shea is a junior. The principal describes herself as calm.
"We've traveled a little bit here and there, so our kids feel comfortable where they're at," said Love. "They know their supervisors really well, and they're with their friends."
In a recent posting on a blog decicated to the students' trip, Max Love wrote: "Don't worry, we're all safe. We're an hour and half away from the protesting and we are not at the airport. I repeat we are not at the airport. We are staying at a hotel so we are all together so it's easier to maintain our schedule and connection as a group. "
He went on to say the group will stay in a hotel in Suphan Buri, about 90 minutes outside Bangkok. The group will go to class on Friday and find something fun to do over the weekend away from Bangkok.
Thailand's prime minister today called a state of emergency for the actual airports. So any violence between protestors and police, in theory, wouldn't spread elsewhere.
Despite the timing, Love said it is worthwhile keeping this new exchange program with Thailand. She said a group of Thai students attended class in Lodi last year. This year was the first time a group of students traveled there. She said the program is supposed to alternate which school sends students each year. Love said her school also participates in an exchange program with Hessen, Germany.
"I think we feel this has been an incredible experience for the kids, and even though that's the way it's ending, that's part of the global experience and that's what we want for our students," said Love.
The immediate question is how that group returns to Wisconsin. Love said the first back-up plan is to hope the airports re-open in the next couple days. The students would then fly back on Monday, December 1. If the airports remain closed, then they would have to find a way out of Thailand, and fly home from another country.
Parents of the students involved will meet with Love Thursday night. She said they are able to teleconference with the students and staff in Thailand over Internet website Skype.
"I think (the other parents are) just wanting to make sure that the kids are in a safe place, and they are," said Love. "They also are kind of like me, they're ready for their kids to be home. It's been two and a half-plus weeks."