The Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat says he will take action to end anti-government protests in Bangkok’s two main airports.
Emergency rule has been declared around the two airports.
Thousands of passengers have been left stranded by the protest action, just the latest stand-off in a long-running political struggle gripping Thailand.
Despite the damage being done to Thailand’s economy, the People’s Alliance for Democracy is insisting it has the country’s interests at heart.
King Kong Janoi filed this report from Bangkok.
With their holidays ruined and business plans postponed, exhausted and concerned passengers wait for their flights at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport.
Some sleep on the floor in front of check-in counters whilst others complain to air lines, demanding answers to impossible questions.
With no end to the stand-off in sight those still waiting were eventually transferred to hotels.
A taxi driver who didn’t want to be name says the protests have lost him many paying passengers.
“Because of the political problems there are only a few foreigners now in Thailand. The Thai economy is not good so there are no local tourists either. Being a taxi driver is hard now. Some days I only earn around 3 US dollars.”
Suvarnabhumi is one of Asia’s busiest airports. It handles more than one hundred thousand passengers and 400 flights a day.
Airlines are suffering enormous financial damage due to cancelled flights. Thai Airways International estimates its daily losses will top 15 million US dollars.
But for supporters of the People’s Alliance for Democracy there was elation at the successful closing of the airport.
PAD member Art Dejavu manages security and says the occupation will force the resolution of Thailand’s political crisis.
“They might order to kill us, whatever, but if thousand of us die and the system changes that will be cool. I am sure that our people, most of us are just sitting and waiting for them kill us. We’ll wait for that because if we can’t win, we better died.”
Dejavu is demanding Primer Minister Somchai Wongsawat’s resignation:
“We try to fight against the corrupt government,” he says.
But Prime Minister Somchai is refusing to leave and points out that his administration was democratically elected by the majority of Thai people.
And the pressure is mounting. National army Chief Anupong Paojinda has requested the parliament be dissolved.
A Thai court, meanwhile, has ordered the protesters to leave the airports.
But fellow PAD demonstrator Piyachart Dangpuangpaiboon says the stand-off will only end when the government addresses the real problems.
“Our five leaders don’t want to be prime minister or have any position in politics. What they are fighting for, what we say is new politics; that people have an equal chance for knowledge and not only rich people have a chance in their lifetimes. Everybody has to be equal, everybody should be equal.”
As tensions increase, so too does the possibility of bloodshed.
There have already been explosives near government house and four other locations where PAD supporters have gathered.
Dejavu says they will fight till the end.
“You can’t imagine what its like to have a bomb every day in Bangkok, people get shot every day in Bangkok. But this time when we went to the airport it was a shock to the system so they have to do something. I don’t know what’s going to happen, maybe most of us will die, whatever, but PAD is not scared of this anymore. We’ve been attacked to many times.”
The stand-off has deeply divided Thailand. Opinion polls suggest the majority of Thais to not support the PAD’s protests.
Siriporn Muangsrinon, a Bangkok lawyer, expresses a widely held view.
“I am very bored with them; they destroy the country, that is a very bad situation in Thailand. They destroy economy of Thailand and image of Thai people.”
Despite not having the support of the majority, PAD has some powerful backers behind the scenes.
It was created by Sondhi Limthongkul a Thai media mogul who runs a daily newspaper and satellite Television station.
Economists are warning that if the PAD’s campaign continues it will do lasting damage to foreign investor confidence in Thailand.
Khulkingkan Aim from the Thai Lawyers council says the protesters are destroying the country.
“The tourists will not come to Thailand because they feel unsafe. And they force investors not come to invest in Thailand. It makes employees lose their job. I think the protesters must stop everything and have a new idea to grow the economy.”