Third day of 'King Taksin operation' sees Bangkok airport closed

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Protests and disruption by Thailand's People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) entered their third day with an invasion and forced shutdown of Bangkok's main international airport. The yellow-shirted demonstrators are reportedly in full control of Suvarnabhumi Airport, leaving between 3,000 and 4,000 travellers stranded and incoming flights diverted. The PAD have vowed to remain in the airport disrupting flights until the Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat, stands down.

Originally blocking the six-lane motorway approach to the airport, the protesters broke through police lines late on Tuesday night, invaded the terminal buildings, and forced the cancellation of all air traffic. Their aim appears to have been to prevent the Prime Minister returning to the country from the APEC summit in Peru.

Deputy Prime Minister Olarn Chaipravat expressed concern that the action would have adverse economic effects on Thailand. Confidence of those investing in the country is likely to be dented, and the damage to the tourism industry could worsen the country's situation in the current global economic crisis.

The airport invasion has been accompanied by reports of further bomb blasts aimed at the anti-government PAD protesters. One explosion happened at the airport terminal itself, injuring three. A second explosion was reported at the site of the Don Mueang airport where the PAD are blockading temporary government offices. An additional two attacks, believed to be grenades, have been reported but with no casualties. The PAD have not cooperated with police in investigating these attacks, instead claiming their own bomb squad will deal with the matter.

The protesters have refused a government offer to end the stand-off. "We will stay until the government steps down. This government is not legitimate," said Sunthorn Kaewlai, a retired university lecturer. The PAD has given out leaflets to stranded passengers at the airport, apologising for the disruption, but at the same time saying that "the alliance believes the measure is crucial to bring an end to the traitorous killer government."

Details of which airport the beleaguered PM Somchai will fly into have not been revealed, however The Nation reports his flight will be diverted to U-tapao military airport, approximately 150km southeast of the capital, Bangkok.