Anti-government protesters are still occupying Bangkok’s two major airports. Thailand’s tourism officials have estimated that 240,000 passengers are still stranded in the country.
Initial flight schedules have been released for stranded passengers. Tourists who want to leave Thailand are embarking on a bus trip towards Malaysia even if they will have to pass Thailand’s southern provinces, where an insurgency exists.
As expected, Thailand’s highest Court found the ruling party guilty of electoral fraud. What is the implication of the order? The ruling party is disbanded, the Prime Minister could no longer hold public office, and other party leaders are barred from holding a public office for five years. A caretaker Cabinet is now in charge of Thailand, led by Deputy Prime Minister Chavarat Charnvirakul. Out of 34 cabinet ministers, only 12 have been banned from holding public offices. The remaining 22 can continue to govern until a new Cabinet is ready.
Deputy Prime Minister Chavarat Charnvirakul. Photo credit: Thai Photoblogs
Since the Prime Minister has stepped down already, will the protesters finally leave the airports? No. They do not want to recognize the authority of the caretaker Cabinet. So they remain in control of the airports. The protests continue.
It is clear by now that the airport siege orchestrated by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) is supported by Bangkok’s business elite and the military. There is no shortage of food for the more or less 15,000 PAD members in the airports. It was also reported that 5,000 blankets were donated to PAD a few days ago.
Even the police forces are not too determined to disperse the protesters. They seem contented to drop fliers from helicopters onto the Bangkok airports ordering PAD to leave the premises.
In his final message as Thailand’s leader, the ex-Prime Minister declared: “I did my best to administer the country.” Thailand Crisis reacts:
“By traveling to Peru for one week, in full national crisis, to attend a totally useless APEC meeting? By hidding in Chiang Mai, afraid of his own shadow, afraid of the army? Sure he did his very best. Thaksin’s brother-in-law will remain one of the dullest Thai Prime Minister ever.”
While the Court was delivering its decision, government supporters were outside the building. The crowd did not like the Court’s decision. Nirmal Ghosh observes:
“Disbelief, disappointment as dissolution handed down on PPP (People Power Party). Some people are boo-ing. The verdict is photocopied and distributed. One woman snatches it from another and crumples it, throws it on the ground & stamps on it. There is a sense of deflation in the crowd; they seem rudderless.”
The airport chaos is hurting Thailand’s tourism industry, even the economy of its neighbors. But it must be pointed out that ordinary persons, Thais and foreigners, are suffering more. Tourists are stranded; Bangkok residents are losing their jobs, especially those who are working in the airports. Thai Tales had a conversation with a travel agent:
“Today I walked past my travel agent on the way to lunch. She said that she would be paid half her salary this month and that the travel agency could close if the situation continued. But, she said, her plan was to sell iced coffee from a cart if she was no longer a travel agent.
“The fallout may indeed be incalculable, but when it’s people you know, people who make your life a bit easier by being good at their jobs and a bit more pleasant by just being in it, the costs suddenly become measurable and terrible.”
Nomadic Matt, who works in the airport, has lost his job:
“The damage is done though. There will be no high season this year and an expected 1 million people will be out of work because of the drop in tourism numbers (including me as I work at the airport!!!!). No one is going to want to come visit now. Most tourists are canceling their vacations and many that are interviewed just want to leave and never come back.”
To avoid being beaten by partisans, Richard Barrow could not wear red or yellow T-shirts outside his house. Red is the color of government supporters; and yellow is PAD’s color:
“I had to pop out just now in the car to go and run an errand in town. I forgot I was wearing a yellow shirt as today is Monday. I hadn't change after coming back from school. My neighbor was really scared for me and told me that I should go back and change first. Things are getting scary on the streets. Hardly anyone wears yellow these days. And if they do, then only on Mondays. Hardly any teacher at my school wears yellow in case they are associated with the PAD. Some parents told me that they told their children not to wear red or yellow when they go out any more. What my neighbor said to me is true. In particular if I go out late at night. This is how bad it is getting on the streets these days.”
Political cartoons by Sacravatoons
Traffic around the airport has deteriorated. Dreaming of Hanoi writes:
“My day-to-day life has not been affected. Work is normal, as is my social life…Our school is nearer to the airport, and it seemed like there was a mass exodus into Bangkok from that direction. The highway was clogged. We had to hop out of the taxi and walk all the way to Sukhumvit. We then took motorcycles home. This trip usually takes 30 mins, but on Friday night it took over an hour; I’m sure it took even longer for those who chose to sit and wait in the traffic.”
Recognizing that ordinary persons are suffering, Brit in Bangkok criticizes the elite:
“The ones who I feel sorry for though are the ‘average’ Thais and not the wealthy Thais that are destroying this country and trying to take democracy away from normal people. Meanwhile, I'm making sure that all my purchases from now on will be from market stalls as much as possible, in an attempt to support every day Thais and not these wealthy as*holes that run this country. The less money these jokers have the better and, from now on, I'm going to make sure they get none of mine.”
Andrew Biggs has a message for both the politcians and protesters:
“What has happened to my beloved Thailand? If you truly love Thailand, you should not be wearing yellow or red. We are past that. It was cute six months ago but it is deadly now. It doesn’t matter if you hate or support the government. Let’s stop this madness. Somchai, resign. PAD, get out of the airport.”
Via Twitter, Bangkok residents are reacting to the latest updates:
Secadra: Protesters still there and the pro-gov aren't happy with the decision. Not much happens in a rush
Charlespulaski: Thai court orders ruling party dissolved What kind of Mickey Mouse Democracy is this? Can they even do that?
Nomadicmatt: Well, once they open up that damn airport, I'll be moving….where should i go?
Badtzrawks: excitement?!?! man, it doesnt seem that PAD will return us our airports loey ah’ no sign!!
Noobam: I'm a PAD too but I don't agree with the strike at the airport at all. Esp. with bullshit govt like this