According to initial estimates, there are 100,000 stranded passengers in Thailand after anti-government protesters led by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) forced the shutdown of Bangkok’s two major airports. The protesters would not leave the airport premises; they want Thailand’s Prime Minister to resign first.
Protesters have overtaken two airports this week: Suvarnabhumi Airport (Thailand’s new airport) and Don Mueang International Airport.
The main casualty is Thailand’s tourism industry. This is a peak season and Thailand is one of Asia’s major transport hubs. The travel plans of hundreds of thousands of tourists all over the world have been affected.
Most stranded passengers are not trapped inside the airports; they are likely staying at hotels in central Bangkok. Many hotels are providing free accommodation for overstaying tourists. For those who are staying in the airports, their situation is not good. Andrew Wood of Bangkok’s Chaophya Park Hotel & Resort reveals:
“Bangkok based tour operators visiting the airport since early this morning report that the hygiene situation at the airport is quickly deteriorating with limited toilets and washrooms. Food outlets also are struggling to keep up with demand with food supplies dwindling. This is likely to become critical if PAD supporters block supply routes.”
What are the views of some of the stranded passengers, Bangkok residents and the now world infamous protesters?
Richard Hosier who visited Thailand with his family is very angry:
“I am stuck here in Thailand with my wife and children after choosing to holiday here. We can't get home so I like to say thank you to the kind people of Thailand who try to help us and thanks to the PAD who show once again that their actions are designed to hold hostage the Kingdom of Thailand in order to achieve their un-democratic demands.”
Kenny is not that mad at the protests:
“I am safe and the protests are quite localized around the airports in Bangkok. While many tourists are starting to scramble and are a bit peeved about the airport delays, most people seem more discouraged about the unseasonal rain at the beaches.”
Go East Young Woman discourages friends from visiting Thailand today:
“It’s not so much dangerous right now as potentially dangerous, but it’s very inconvenient to be a tourist in Thailand right now. Both Bangkok airports are closed. Many people are stranded there. The PAD doesn’t seem to be taking hostages or anything like that, but a situation like that could easily turn volatile. I wouldn’t risk my safety there unless I had to. The mob keeps protesting in new areas all the time, so even if the airports are cleared and opened again, until the situation is resolved, who knows what they will decide to block next?
“No one seems to be targeting foreigners or tourists for violence, but there is still a risk of being caught in the crossfire of a violent situation between Thais if things go bad.
“Personally, I am trying to avoid public areas with a lot of people at the moment, especially government areas.”
Tuesdaynight will escape Thailand through other routes:
“We are currently on the island of Lanta and having a great time, all things considered. We were supposed to leave for home tonight, but Bangkok’s airport has not reopened and there are no signs it will do so for a while.
“We are going to make our way to Singapore by way of Langkawi and then KL. Hopefully, we’ll he home by the 1st.”
You Tube video of PAD protest at Bangkok's airport
Since many airlines use Thailand as a transit point, passengers from nearby countries are also stranded. For example, a family extended their stay in Cambodia because their flights were canceled. Some Americans missed the Thanksgiving Day celebrations in the United States.
Brunei Lifestyle mentions the case of haj pilgrims who were trapped in Thailand:
“I was touched when I read that Thai haj pilgrims are now stranded at the Bangkok’s international airport. The report said that hundreds of Thai Muslims are now spending their third nights, fourth if tonight they are still there.
“The rest of the haj pilgrims have chosen to stay at the airport but they have to make it to Mecca by next week, 2 December which is the cut-off date for the haj this season. What touches me was when they said that the pilgrimage is a test of faith but the airport chaos is already the test.
“Some of them have saved all their lives for this once in a lifetime pilgrimage. Many of those stranded are elderly and frail but still hoping to be able to perform the haj this year. I wish they would all be able to make it to the holy land and have a safe journey.”
The Malaysian government has sent military aircrafts to rescue its citizens. The Daily Brunei Resources has canceled a family trip to Bangkok next week. Friends of Ranoadidas from Brunei couldn’t travel to Thailand as well.
Via Twitter, Kofty saw some stranded passengers:
“Meanwhile, I get my new shirts, 5 double French cuff, 5 button down. I see a few stranded tourists on Silom, but nothing else. All quiet.”
Again from Twitter, ChrisSanderson heard that stranded passengers were given some compensation:
“Apparently the government is giving Bangkok stranded tourist 2000 baht a day each to help out, present ticket at airport to collect cash”
Bad luck airport
My Thai Friend notes that the new airport has encountered problems even during its construction. Apparently, one of the reasons cited by the 2006 coup plotters was the poor construction of the new airport:
“There were lots of problems involving the construction, budget and Thai superstition. In fact back in September 2005 a total of 99 Buddhist monks were dispatched to the airport to help rid it of evil spirits following the “sighting” of ghosts by the construction workers.
“Problems with the runway and taxiways were discovered which eventually led to major reconstruction work. This combined with the airports inability to handle increasing traffic flow also led to the re-opening of Don Mueang for some domestic flights.”
Letter from PAD
Much has been written about the plight of the stranded passengers; but what about the condition of the protesters who have occupied the airports for several days already. Chuck Kuhn writes:
“Despite the rising tensions, during the day, the main terminal building had an air of festivity about it. Many parents brought their children, stalls have been set up selling bright yellow alliance banners, flags and rattles, and all the food is free, much of it donated by wealthy supporters among Bangkok's business community. One stall was even giving fresh clothes to those who have been there for the duration.
“People give to us because they believe in our cause,” said Pluem Rodkaew, 33, who was handing out toiletries. “We have enough food and water to stay here for months.”
A letter from the protesters was distributed to the passengers to clarify their mission. Excerpts from the letter:
“I’d like to stress here that the PAD’s policy is to use ONLY peaceful means and we have proved our intention by using only reason for the last six months.
“The aim of the PAD is to rebuild a country based on integrity, honesty, freedom from corruption and fairness for all Thais.
“We are not being paid to be here to use violence to get our way. We are not here to support a handful of corrupt politicians serving only one man who wants to divide our country. But we are here by choice, we are here to share an ideal, we are here to realize our goal which is to rebuild our country into a better place for the 60-odd million citizens. It’s actually not a question of “winning or losing” — it’s the reality of achieving what is good and right for our country — Thailand.”
Alexisthetiny does not want to accept an apology from PAD:
“I don’t care that you now have a big ole sign at Suvarnabhumi Airport saying that you’re sorry for all inconvenience caused but you only want the current PM to step down. You haven’t just inconvenienced everyone, you’ve acted like absolute CHILDREN and have disrupted everyone’s plans. You’ve pretty much put a big fat dent in your country’s economy, but I’m guessing you could care less. Let’s just say, you haven’t very much in the way of global sympathy any more. Take your bloody protest somewhere else and let the rest of the world get on with their lives. I mean, seriously, NO ONE, absolutely NO ONE is amused. Apology NOT accepted.”
While there is tension at the airports, central Bangkok seems quiet these days. Aaron Escobar observes:
“Oddly enough, life seems to be going on entirely as normal here in the city. The streets are calmer than usual – less traffic, less people out and about – but that’s about it. We continue to go to school and work every day, ride the BTS, and enjoy living downtown. It’s a strange feeling, knowing that something critical to the county’s future is happening just on the outskirts of the city, but having absolutely no effect on our daily life.
“I wonder when all this is going to end? Technically, I suppose I’m stranded in Bangkok, but if Bangkok is home, does that really count as stranded?”
Urban Pilgrim adds:
“Despite the turmoil though, life in Bangkok continues as usual. There are no yellow-clad PAD demonstrators on the streets. Nor are there groups of red-shirted pro-government demonstrators. One unaware of the crisis would not find evidence of it in daily life.”
Sovereign Myth analyzes that the goals of PAD’s will weaken the democracy in Thailand:
“Sections of the PAD leadership effectively wish to replace the imperfect but majoritarian electoral democracy currently in place with one that returns Thailand to the “semi-democracy” of the 1980s, although one reconfigured as more virtuous and wise. This is the only solution some elitist liberals and conservatives can envisage in the face of the electoral strength of the pro-Thaksin forces.”