August 29, 2008

Security Tightened at Thai Airports

Text of report in English by Thai newspaper The Nation website on 29 August

Airports allow presence of protesters but tighten security. THAI sources no flights have been effected but passengers have to endure some inconveniences

All passengers would go under random baggage check after stepping into the passenger terminals.

Serirat Prasutanond, acting president of AOT, said that the higher alert follows the intelligence reports that the protesters would take control of airports.

AOT operates four international airports in Phuket, Hat Yai, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

While protesters blocked the entrances and exits at Hat Yai Airport, some also blocked the entry into Phuket Airport.

Airports of Thailand Plc, the operator of Suvarnabhumi Airport and four international airports in provinces, on Friday has switched the Level 3 security alert system which was normally deployed during festivals, following reports of anti-government protesters' seize of several provincial airports.

There are reports that more protesters are heading towards the Krabi Airport, which is under the supervision of the Civil Aviation Department.

It was reported that more police officers are dispatched to Chiang Mai Airport. The airport director could not be reached for comment.

Latest information showed that passengers have minor inconveniences in travelling in and out airports, but all flights were still be able to be coming in and out of the airports.

Anti-government protesters have blocked two of three major international airports in the south amid growing fears simmering political trouble in Bangkok could spread to major provinces.

Hundreds of protesters arrived at the Phuket International Airport with vehicles. They then blocked the entrances and exits of the airport.

More people were expected to come to the airport to join the protest which was intensified after police dispersed protesters in Bangkok.

Earlier anti-government protesters blocked entrances and exits at the Hat Yai airport with some 100 vehicles, amid growing fears simmering political trouble in Bangkok could spread to major provinces.

Railway union workers have already staged a strike to show support for the protestors at the Government House, starting Thursday evening with a rail service stoppage at the Nakhon Rachasima in the Northeast and Nakhon Sawan in the North.

According to the Manger website, about 500 protesters were staging a rally at the Hat Yai airport. The anti-government website said the airport would soon be "inaccessible".

A THAI source told The Nation some flights to Hat Yai have already been "re-directed". No information was immediately available.

Sathorn Sinpru, leader of the railway union at the State Railway of Thailand at Nakhon Rachasima, said yesterday that more than 100 members of the union, including 40 train drivers, submitted their leave starting at 5:00 pm, thus paralysing all the train service from the Northeast to Bangkok.

He said the union workers in Nakhon Rachasima along with the union workers elsewhere have already submitted their leave.

Effective today, all the trains going into Bangkok will suspend their service because of the strike. The Nakhon Sawan train carrying cargo and oil stopped service at 4:00 pm, while the Kaengkoi, Saraburi service also ceased the service at 5:00 pm.

Sathorn warned commuters not to board the train from Bangkok to the Northeast as they will be left stranded along the way.

Nakhon Rachasima is the rail juncture to the Northeast.

The railway union workers' strike is aimed at showing support to the protestors in Bangkok, who have taken over the Government House over the past four days.

Sathorn said the union workers' welfare have never been looked after by the government and that they are concerned about the security of the protestors inside the Government House, who might be stormed by the police.

Local police at Nakhon Rachasima, the largest province of the Northeast, interrogated the labour union workers about the strike, but the labour union workers told them that they had no intention to destroy the government properties as claimed.

Sawit Kaewwan, secretary-general of the Confederation of State Enterprise Labour Union, said the work stoppage is part of a civil disobedience against the Samak government.

"Over the next two days, things would become clearer over the extent of the railway strike. In principle, we would like the strike to affect the commuters minimally. Most of the long-haul train will suspend its service, while the shorter routes might continue their service," he said.

Sawit said the railway union workers will consult with the electricity and water labour unions over further strike to deprive the government of their service.

Originally published by The Nation website, Bangkok, in English 29 Aug 08.

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