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Thailand: Airports reopen but crisis not yet over

Bangkok’s airports are now open. The protesters have agreed to end their protests after the country’s top court ordered the dissolution of the ruling party which forced the Prime Minister to step down. Military troops are now guarding the airports. Tourists are advised to contact their airlines and tourism offices to check for flight schedules.

Last week protesters belonging to the People’s Alliance for Democracy have occupied Bangkok’s two airports demanding the removal of the corrupt government. The airport takeover has stranded more than 300,000 passengers in the country.

Because of the favorable court order, the protesters have declared victory. However, they vowed to launch similar protest actions in the future if reforms are not instituted. Excerpts from PAD’s statement:

“The PAD would like to call on whichever side that attains power to run the country to find a solution for the current problems and not to create conditions for another political turmoil in the country. Do not bring to power people from the Thaksin regime. Address the wrongdoings conducted by those in the Thaksin regime. Join with the people in making new politics a reality.”

The PAD would like to make the following pledges.

1. If a proxy government of the Thaksin regime is set up again or if there is an attempt to amend the Constitution or the law to whitewash the wrongdoings of those in the Thaksin regime, to benefit politicians, or to lessen the power of the King, the PAD will return.

2. From now on, if there is any government which comes into power but is insincere in its efforts to launch new politics with the people, the PAD will return.

Thaksin is former Prime Minister of Thailand who was ousted in a coup two years ago. PAD accused the last two Prime Ministers of being puppets of Thaksin.

Thai Politico interprets the PAD statement:

“The implication at the moment is that if the next PM is not to the PAD's liking they will occupy the airport again. Will the security forces now completely secure Thailand's airports so that nothing like this can take place again? Or will we see the army back off like scared rabbits into the corner?”

New Mandala believes PAD’s victory will be short-lived:

“The celebrations by the yellow shirts at Suvanabhumi will be short-lived. The parliament has not been dissolved and the government looks very likely to maintain its majority. The Democrat-except-when-you-can’t-win-an-election-and-then-a-judicial-coup-is-OK Party simply can’t muster the numbers. More blatant judicial or military intervention will be required to remove the government.”

sacravatoons
Political cartoon by Sacravatoons

PAD is popular in Bangkok (but the airport takeover has made it less popular today). PAD is accused of having close ties with Bangkok’s elite. On the other hand, most of the rural voters are supportive of Thaksin’s party. Someone asked: What if the farmers staged their own protest against PAD and the urban elite by refusing to plant rice?

Stranded tourists are now recounting their experience in Thailand. Tuesdaynight narrates how he and his wife were able to leave the country by traveling to Malaysia and Singapore by land. He writes:

“Finally, I have to say, after all this, I consider us to be lucky. We found a way out of the country and it worked. I truly feel for the hundreds of thousands people whose travel was impacted because of this. More importantly, I feel for the Thai people who have yet to find some form of political stability.”

Despite the airport chaos, life in Bangkok seemed like normal the past week. Oneditorial writes:

“During the week, I called my family to get their views on this event. They did not seem to be thinking too much about what is going on. They still carry on their daily lives as usual. As a matter of fact, on the day I talked to my mother on the phone, the entire family was completely absorbed in watching a Thai soap on the telly, never mind the fact that the country is in a state of political turmoil. I just wish I could be as detached as them.”

Andrew Biggs asks if the airport crisis would produce positive results:

“Could it be that the pain, shame and anger we have all experienced with the PAD’s closure of the airport actually be heralding a new era of politics in Thailand? Could it possibly be that something good is going to come out of all this?”

An anonymous commenter criticizes the organizer of the protests:

“Im sure terrorist groups in South-East Asia have witnessed the complete lack of security at the airport and thus it would be a sitting duck for groups who plan terrorist attacks against planes and passengers. Bangkok as a major hub? I dont think so any more. What airline will want to fly in and out of Bangkok when the airports own security guards ran like scared children from their own people. Shame on Thailand for allowing this anti democratic group to act like terrorists and hold an entire country to ransom. Thailand is about to see the trickle down from this catastrophe and I pity the ordinary people who were not involved in this protest but could lose jobs.”

Gabriella Haynes describes the mood in Bangkok:

“The atmosphere in wider Bangkok since the protests started has been calm and business as usual in general. While the city’s residents don’t take the sporadic and seemingly random spurts of violence and the loss of life and income lightly, there is no sense of widespread panic and concern. International news agencies report airport mayhem and interview distressed and worn-out tourists stranded in the country, yet most Thais I have spoken to only express concern about the potential violence of the situation and concern for the economy.”

And let’s not forget that pro-government supporters are also numerous in the city:

“The PAD has ceased their protests for now but the capital has also been inundated with pro-government supporters, which means the situation has not been completely diffused.”

Bangkok
Bangkok airport
PAD
Flickr photos from Ronn Ashore and Willie Lunchmeat

Thomas Wanhoff from Vietnam is disappointed that tourists are complaining of missed flights while Bangkok protesters are fighting for some cause:

“This is just unbelievable. There are people in Thailand trying to fight for democracy (but of course is their understanding of), at least stand up against the corrupt government, and tourists are just complaining about missed flights.”

  • Naipal B

    Closing down the airports and draining the economy does not speak well of the protesters. The negotiating table is the best way to find solutions. The Thais will have to stop the corruption in their Government before they can plan for their future. Good Country, Very Good People – but Corrupt Politicians.

  • Mark T

    So, Does anyone think Thaksin is no longer in power? It’s still his parliament.. The court barred only senior members from elections, the majority is still there to be elected. The monster has been decapitated, but it will grow a new head. Somchai was just a distraction, and the airport demonstration usurped the time and money of the Thai people, Thaksin is still in command! Mai bpen rai…

  • Roger

    Thomas Wanhoff from Vietnam is quoted as saying, “…tourists are just complaining about missed flights.”

    Well, try to imagine yourself trying to return home after visiting another strange, exotic country. You don’t have a lot of money because you know you’re going to be home soon. Suddenly your flight is canceled. Not only that, all flights are canceled. You don’t have a hotel room booked. The restaurant in the airport is closed and you aren’t sure how to get to another restaurant outside. You have to be back at work in two days. You miss your wife and children and you know they are going to be worried about your safety. This is not exactly a “missed flight.”

    Although the PAD demonized the current government as corrupt, their leaders are of exactly the same mold. The government was elected in an election that was rigged against them, fighting against a party that was created and supported by the junta, with vast government and military resources devoted to persuading voters not to vote for them. The Democrat opposition party was fully as guilty of vote buying as the government parties but the junta-appointed Election Commission declined to accept charges against them. The Peoples Alliance for Democracy is, in fact, trying to destroy democracy and bring about an appointed government (appointed by whom? They don’t say).

    I’m afraid you’ve drunk the PAD kool-aid.

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