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Thailand: Protesters occupy airports

Categories: East Asia, Thailand, Breaking News, Citizen Media, Disaster, Economics & Business, Governance, Human Rights, Politics, Protest, Travel

Last weekend, protesters led by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) vowed to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people in the streets to push for the ouster of Thailand’s elected government. What happened during the past few days? What did the protesters accomplish?

Monday – Parliament building was occupied.
Tuesday – Suvarnabhumi airport takeover
Thursday – Don Mueang Airport takeover. Bangkok’s air travel completely paralyzed.

Thousands [1] are stranded in the airports. Cab drivers [2] couldn’t enter the premises. Thailand’s Prime Minister has already declared a State of Emergency [3] in the airports. There are coup rumors [4]; PAD wants the military to intervene to end the political crisis.

The provocative actions of PAD have angered many residents and visitors. Even mainstream media [5] in Thailand, which used to be sympathetic to PAD, are now criticizing the group.

Thailand’s tourism industry [6] is now suffering. Some Thai residents are even advising their friends not to visit Thailand [7] until next year.


airport protesters
Pictures from HaPPi like a HiPPo [8]

Surawut [9] narrates what he saw at the airport:

“When we got inside the terminal, the shops and restaurants, banks etc were hurriedly closing and staff were blocking off the front of their premises with tables and chairs. At around 9.30pm the public address system announced that ALL people in the terminal building should leave immediately for their own safety. This was repeated many times over the next 15 minutes or so, although very few people seemed to be paying any attention to it. The noise from the yellow shirts outside was unbelievable and it only seemed a matter of time before they forced their way in. The police in their riot gear were woefully outnumbered.”

The Bangkok Bugle talks to some stranded passengers [10]:

“I spent several hours yesterday talking to the stranded. From businessmen and women to backpackers, they're all affected. One person I spoke to, a Swiss businessman, hadn't even planned on coming to Thailand. He was only in transit when the PAD mob invaded Suvarnabhumi. He showed me his diary and the business meetings he'd already missed. Understandably his impression of Thailand is not a good one.”

My Thailand Diary will miss her husband [11] this week:

“Unbelievable. I don’t think my hubby will be able to fly to Bangkok and then further south this weekend… Seems really hard to take a bus or the train as well! This is just stupid.

“Am I worried for my safety? No. But then I’m not travelling anywhere, I know which road to avoid in town as well. But I do feel worried/ sorry for all those people who depend on tourism and now that high season is starting its just a big blow to their business. What a horrible way to start high season.”

Gnarly Kitty wonders [12] why the airports were not properly secured:

“Isn't the airport supposed to be like the most secured place in any country? And yet, these mustards can just easily barge in.

“What if they were a group of armed militants instead of aunties with clappers?

“How could a once simple and goal-oriented anti-Thaksin rally turn into an idiot convention?”

Brain Farts writes about the impact of the airport takeover [13] on the life of residents:

“Thanks to the PAD’s latest airport-paralyzing move, my friend’s cousin who was in a brutal car accident in Surat-thani can’t be flown back to Bangkok for proper medical care and instead lies in a coma in an inept hospital down south with a fractured skull, broken ribs and broken arm.

“The way my life has been affected by the PAD’s latest moves is pretty petty. Because the idiots decided to park themselves in front of the government buildings along Changwattana Road and the old Don Muang airport, a normally 40-minute drive to the university now takes me an hour and a half…and translates into me waking up at 5:30 on the mornings I have class at 8.”


airport protest

Bangkok airport
Pictures from HaPPi like a HiPPo [14] and Thailand Crisis [15]

PAD believes the Prime Minister is a puppet of ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra. On the other hand, PAD is accused of having close ties to some sections of the elite and military. PAD is popular among the urban middle class [16].

The Nation's State quotes a professor [17] who lambasts PAD:

“The PAD is now like a cult, with hard-core followers who think and speak alike close-mindedly, and becomes increasingly militant. As they claim political righteousness, they defied laws, dehumanized critics and opponents and intimidated them too, and [they are] armed.”

New Mandala thinks the King of Thailand, who is highly revered in the country, should have intervened earlier [18]:

“It is possible that a royal call for restraint may prompt private and public questioning about why it had not come much earlier. Why no word when Government House was invaded? Why no public concern when the PAD’s ultra-nationalist campaign over Preah Vihear bought Cambodia and Thailand close to war? Why no condemnation of the blockade of Parliament? Why no royal advice to the PAD to protest lawfully? Some may see a royal intervention at this stage as too little too late. A great deal of damage has already been done and there is now a real risk that the PAD, who have a strong sniff of victory, may find some face-saving way of deflecting any royal advice.”

Thailand Jumped the Shark notes that foreign embassies didn’t act quickly [19] to protect their citizens:

“What is really astonishing to me is how the foreign embassies in Bangkok have remained silent over this crisis, except for worthless travel advisories.

“What the PAD has done is an act of terrorism. The worthless Thai government has violated international treaties over airport security. Al Qaeda must be salivating in delight, knowing that with a little will power they can take over an airport quite easily and nobody will do anything except business as usual. Shouldn't every major airport and airline in the world have a contingency plan for a hostile takeover of an airport? Why haven't the foreign embassies made sure that their nationals are safe, secure and evacuated from the airport? For Budda's sake, what if the Thai government decided to take action agains the PAD? You'd have thousands of travellers in the cross fire. The PAD could take hostages.”

Real Life Thailand sees little chance of resolving the crisis [20] in the country:

“I see no way out. I think there will be no coup but I do see a military offensive that can only cause bloodshed. But that is not the end. The power struggle will continue. There are still questions to be asked, tensions simmering and things that cannot be said. I hope I’m wrong, I hope somehow this works out but I think things will get worse before they get better.”

Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn [21] of Chulalongkorn University clarifies that not all anti-PAD individuals are automatically in favor of ousted leader Thaksin:

“It is clear that the PAD, the Military, the Democrat Party and the Conservative Establishment would rather see total chaos in Thailand rather than allow democracy to function. This is despite the fact that we face a serious economic crisis. Those who support democracy and social justice in Thailand must condemn the PAD and those advocating a dictatorship. We must be with the pro-democracy Red Shirts, while refusing to support ex-PM Thaksin, who has a record of Human Rights abuses.”