September 3, 2008

Thai Opposition Seizes Airport in South, Threatens to Take Councils

Text of report in English by Thai newspaper Bangkok Post website on 3 September

Supporters of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) sealed off some of the country's major airports and threatened to seize city halls in the South in a bid to force the resignation of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej shortly after the state of emergency was imposed yesterday.

About 1,000 PAD supporters closed the roads to the Hat Yai airport yesterday morning. They set up a stage in front of the airport and vowed a protracted siege of the airport.

Four companies of anti-riot and border patrol police were deployed to secure the airport and bring security there to its highest level.

About 300 of the group's supporters sealed off the airport for four hours yesterday and then left for Bangkok to join the PAD demonstration at Government House.

Praween Julapakdi, a PAD coordinator in Surat Thani, said the two evening flights would not be blocked.

Key southern supporters of the PAD announced in Chumphon yesterday they would lay siege to city halls in all 14 southern provinces if Mr Samak insists on staying.

Highways in the region would also be blocked, said Sunthorn Rakrong, the PAD's southern coordinator. The movement's backers forced the cancellation of seven flights at Hat Yai airport yesterday.

Prapas Inthanapasat, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) director in Hat Yai, said the airport rally and the rail strike would hurt tourism all the more in Songkhla, which is already suffering from insurgent threats.

Phanu Woramit, TAT director in Surat Thani province, said the news of the clash between the antigovernment and pro-government supporters in Bangkok early yesterday caused the cancellation of about half the flight bookings made by South Korean couples planning honeymoon trips to Koh Samui this week.

Ruangnam Jaikwang, president of the southern hoteliers' association, said the hotel industry on Koh Samui could grind to a halt if the political turmoil is allowed to persist.

In the northeastern province of Khon Kaen, some medical staff of the Srinakarin Hospital at Khon Kaen University are considering a strike if Mr Samak refuses to call it quits.

About 100 doctors, nurses and medical students at the hospital said they would withdraw all their bank savings in an effort to jeopardise the local economy.

Originally published by Bangkok Post website, Bangkok, in English 3 Sep 08.

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