Call Thailand free of SARS

BANGKOK -- Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra declared Thailand free of SARS in an April 19 radio address.

"We've controlled it very well, and now we have no SARS patients in Thailand," Thaksin told the nation.

Thailand, with a population of 58 million, had seven probable cases and two SARS-related deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

The country's proximity to China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam, where SARS has been a problem, and its inclusion on tour packages to Southeast Asia contributed to a drop in bookings here.

Until SARS, Thailand was reporting good news, according to statistics compiled by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

The number of U.S. visitors to Thailand rose more than 5% in 2002, to just over 555,000, about 6% of Thailand's 10.8 million foreign visitors last year. -- J.S.

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