Airport security tightened as Thai pilgrims leave for Hajj

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NARATHIWAT, Aug 27 — Security at Narathiwat Airport in this southern province was beefed up today to ensure the safety of 577 Thai Muslims set to leave for the Hajj pilgrimage to Madinah en route to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.    

Gen Udondej Sitabutr, Secretary-General of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), this morning presided over a ceremonial sendoff for Thai pilgrims leaving on two Thai Airways International charter flights.

The first flight carrying 281 Hajj pilgrims left at 10.40am while the second flight carrying 296 Hajj pilgrims is scheduled to depart at 4.25pm.

The direct flights to Madinah are arranged to facilitate travel of Thai Muslims attending the Hajj pilgrimage in October.

Thai pilgrims do not have to waste time by making a connecting flight through Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

The Saudi government has granted a quota allowing 10,400 Thai Muslims to attend this year’s Hajj. Most of Thai Hajj pilgrims, some 8,000, are from the country’s three mainly Muslim southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.