Saturday, 29 November 2008

Thai protest closes Bangkok airports

If you are on holiday in Thailand at the moment, you have probably realised that you are going to have some difficulty leaving the country. Yesterday the Thai riot police were on the run from their checkpoint outside Bangkok’s international airport when they were seen off by several hundred anti-government protesters.

On Friday 2,000 riot police had been deployed all around the airport, and it was suggested that they were going to evict the members of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), who have occupied the terminal since Tuesday. The occupation has forced the cancellation of all flights, leading to turmoil and uncertainty for travellers in and out of Thailand.

An estimated 2,000 protesters have barricaded themselves into Suvarnabhumi airport and Bangkok's second airport, Don Muang, singing songs, waving flags, young and old, highly critical of the Thai government, but filled with loyalty for the Thai Royal Family.

Meanwhile, thousands of stranded passengers have been put up in hotels, waiting for the standoff to end.

Some travellers have been taken on buses from the resort town of Pattaya to the Vietnamese naval airbase of U-Tapao, which is south of Bangkok, and more than 60 flights have taken off from there.

In the light of the fact that the police have not been able to evict the demonstrators, the Thai prime minister has now sacked the police chief, Pacharawat Wongsuwan.

The PAD protesters, wearing hard hats and goggles, and armed with iron bars, are manning the barricade that they have built on the approach road to the airport.

Indicative of the popular nature of this uprising, the prime minister tried to reassure people in a national address on Friday that the airports would be cleared peacefully. “Don't worry,” he said. “Officials will use gentle measures to deal with them.”

Interestingly, cheap flights are still being offered to Bangkok - but probably by the time you have booked, all this will have blown over. Meanwhile, if you are stuck in Thailand, drop us a comment and let us know how things are.

No comments: