BANGKOK (AFP) - Hundreds of people pushed, prodded and stretched their way to a new world record for the biggest simultaneous group massage, in the Thai capital Bangkok on Thursday, organisers said.

A total of 1,282 entrants took part in the event at a convention centre, smashing the previous Guinness World Record of 526 people set in Daylesford, Australia, in March 2010.

“I feel excited and thrilled. I want Thai massage to be famous all around the world,” said 50-year-old masseuse Pinprapar Meedej.

The event was staged by the Thai government in an effort to lure foreigners to a country whose tourist-friendly image has been tested in recent years by deadly floods, political violence and concerns about crime and safety. “We had expected about 800 pairs but on the day of the rehearsal only this number showed up,” said event spokeswoman Supaporn Rungcharoenkiat.  “But we’re sure that we broke the record.”

The kingdom wants to shed its reputation for sex tourism - including brothels disguised as massage parlours - and promote itself as a growing hub for medical tourism. Supporters of traditional Thai massage say people in pain need look no further than their local spa. “Thailand is the number one medical hub. You can be cured with Thai massage. There’s no need to use medicine and it’s 100 percent safe,” said 39-year-old massage instructor Duangvarat Insee.

Most of the people who took part were qualified massage therapists, but others were just happy to enjoy a free session of “the lazy man’s yoga”. “That was great. My legs feel good and I can walk better,” said 72-year-old pensioner Mora Saelim.