Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bangkok Airport haults departure flights due to anti-government protests

In the latest in a series of demonstrations which began in late May, and had escalated to the point of crisis by early September, protesters have occupied Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. This move has led to the cancellation of international departure flights.

The photo at right is from the LA Times. The protesters (wearing yellow to indicate their support for the monarchy) are pictured blocking the sidewalk and street outside the main departure hall.

UPI reports:

Protesters seeking to block the return of Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat from an international summit in Peru occupied the passenger terminal of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport and blocked surrounding roads, partially closing the facility, airport officials told CNN.

The protesters carried golf clubs and long wooden sticks, fighting with cab drivers while police -- who have largely avoided confrontations with protesters -- attempted to restore order, the broadcaster said.

Here is the CNN video of showing protesters firing handguns at police and beating a motorcycle-taxi driver:

The NY Times reports on the scenes depicted in the above video:

As the protesters occupied the highway to the airport on the outskirts of the city, traffic to the airport slowed to a trickle. Separately, elsewhere in Bangkok, a group of demonstrators fired handguns and beat government supporters with metal rods in fierce clashes, injuring six people, according to video footage shown on Thai television. City emergency services officials put the number higher, saying at least 11 people were hurt, according to Reuters.

The incursion into Suvarnabhumi airport, as the capital’s new airport is known, represented a bold and serious challenge to the government, which in recent days has sought to placate the protestors and has tried to avoid confrontation with them.

Bangkok Pundit has observed that the numbers of protesters showing up for recent demonstrations have fallen short of predictions of PAD leaders, and the NY Times reports that protesters seem to be losing public support. The major push we see at this time might be a last-ditch effort, a doubling down, a violent last spasm of faltering movement.

Will the Thai government call upon the military to respond? Will the military obey orders from the government?

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