Wed, Nov 26, 2008
Departing Flights Unable To Leave, Passengers Stranded
While it's possible we'll see a number of delays this week as
holiday travelers flock to US airports... things could be much,
much worse. Consider the sad case of travelers attempting to leave
Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport... which was effectively shut down
by protesters Tuesday night, and remains in a lockdown situation at
Agence-France Presse reports some 8,000 Thai protesters with the
People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) seized control of the airport
this week, with armed guards sealing off roads to the facility.
Incoming flights are still arriving... but nearly 100 departing
flights have been cancelled, and operations at the airport have
been "greatly disrupted."
"I have been informed by Thai Airways that 3,000 passengers are
stranded at the terminal now," airport director Saereerat
Prasutanont said. "Protesters refused to negotiate with anyone
except the prime minister."
A number of Americans are among the passengers stranded at the
airport. "We spent the night here after all the check-in staff ran
away," said Florida resident Vanessa Sloan, who had planned to
leave on a Wednesday flight to Chiang Mai. "No one is here to
Passengers and protesters largely avoided clashes Tuesday, with
local riot police avoiding confrontation for fear of escalating
tensions. There are signs the situation is deteriorating, however;
at least five people were hurt Wednesday in three separate grenade
blasts, one of which was at Suvarnabhumi and a second at Bangkok's
old Don Mueang airport.
The old airport is home to temporary offices for current Thai
Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, who is also the brother-in-law to
exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. PAD demonstrated against
Thaksin's rule until he was ousted in a 2006 coup; protesters say
Somchai is little more than Thaksin's puppet.
The protesters -- many of which wear yellow, to symbolize their
allegiance to Thailand's former monarchal system of government --
launched their takeover of Suvarnabhumi upon Somchai's return from
the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru.
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