BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- Bangkok's two main airports remained occupied by anti-government protesters Friday but Thai authorities appeared to have backed down from earlier threats to end the siege by force.
The airports have been closed since Tuesday, stranding thousands of passengers and dealing a severe blow to the crisis-stricken southeast Asian nation's economy at the height of the tourist season.
Thai prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, whose resignation protesters are demanding, declared a state of emergency Thursday following a cabinet meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand's second city.
But government spokesman Nattawut Sai-Kau told reporters Friday that police would avoid using force and attempt to negotiate with the protesters of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD).
Police chief negotiator Suchart Muenkaew told reporters he had asked protesters at Bangkok's Don Muang airport to allow the airport to resume operations.
"The prime minister has emphasized we avoid confrontation and damage. We will start with soft means, moving to the last measure -- that is dispersing (protesters)," he said, according to The Associated Press. Watch background to Thailand turmoil »
CNN's Dan Rivers said around 3,000 tourists were stranded in hotels in central Bangkok or near the airport.
"A lot of tourists don't understand what is happening or why it is happening. Their holiday has been ruined and there is a lot of confusion, a lot of anger," River said.
Rivers' described the scene at Bangkok's main international Suvarnabhumi Airport as a "bizarre state of anarchy" with a huge group of protesters camped out in the departure hall. Other areas of the airport were deserted with police and airport staff nowhere to be seen, posing a massive security breach, he said. Watch Dan Rivers' report from the empty airport terminal »
Somchai rejected calls Wednesday to dissolve parliament, despite the country's army chief Anupong Paochinda suggesting that he do so.
"This government has legitimacy," Somchai said. "The administration needs to protect Thai democracy and the Thai people, which is most important."
The People's Alliance for Democracy has said it will not end its occupation of the airports until Somchai resigns.
Shinawatra, ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006 and now in exile in Dubai, was sentenced to two years in prison for corruption in October.
CNN's Kocha Olarn and Hugh Riminton contributed to this report.
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