LINKIN PARK Singer Visits Battered Thailand: Photos Available

The Associated Press is reporting LINKIN PARK singer Chester Bennington visited schools and an aid project in southern Thailand, encouraging tourists to return to the area damaged by the Dec. 26 tsunami. [Check out pictures from Yahoo!]

Bennington stopped at two elementary schools and helped paint the side of a house with foreign travelers who are helping rebuild damaged homes and shops along Phuket island's Bang Tao beach.

Phuket has recovered faster than more severely devastated countries such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka, but money is still needed for Thai children — some of whom have lost parents and their homes — and schools where books were lost to the waves, Bennington said Wednesday.

Many shopkeepers are also still trying to reopen and the local economy is sagging because of a lack of tourists, the area's main source of revenue, he said.

"Their entire livelihood depends on tourism and there's no one here," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "The hotels are ready for them and it's time to get things back to normal. ... People need to come back to these areas and really spend some money."

Soon after the tsunami lashed Asian and African coastlines, LINKIN PARK and the American Red Cross helped launch a charity called Music for Relief to provide assistance for people in affected countries. The band made an initial donation of $100,000, according to the MTV.com web site.

Bennington is planning to present an award at an MTV tsunami benefit concert with pop stars from around the world in the Thai capital Thursday night.

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