Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

Search of Air Algerie crash site continues

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Sarkozy, Hollande and the scooter wars

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Confusion online over Air Algérie flight

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - July 25th, 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - July 25th, 2014

Read more

REPORTERS

Halal tourism on the rise

Read more

ENCORE!

Tunisia's Carthage International Festival turns 50

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

WWI Centenary: the battle for Verdun

Read more

THE BUSINESS INTERVIEW

When big companies want to do good

Read more

  • Limited 12-hour humanitarian truce takes effect in Gaza

    Read more

  • Video: No investigation apparent at MH17 crash site

    Read more

  • In pictures: Devastation, debris at Air Algérie crash site

    Read more

  • Paris march for Gaza to go ahead Saturday despite police ban

    Read more

  • Kerry due in Paris for new round of Gaza ceasefire talks

    Read more

  • Washington Post reporter and his wife arrested in Iran

    Read more

  • French families grieve for Algerian plane crash victims

    Read more

  • Lithuania’s Navardauskas wins 19th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • LA Times wipes France off the map in air crash infographic

    Read more

  • Fans electrify the mood as Tour de France crosses the Pyrenees

    Read more

  • French lawyer files complaint against Israel at ICC

    Read more

  • Protest against Gaza offensive turns deadly in West Bank

    Read more

  • Halal tourism on the rise

    Read more

  • Ukraine names acting PM after Yatseniuk's shock resignation

    Read more

  • BNP to pay $80 million for defrauding Dept of Agriculture

    Read more

  • Deadly strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • Pope meets Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan

    Read more

Protesters force police to abandon checkpoint

Video by Solomon KANE , Cyril PAYEN , Christophe BAUER

Latest update : 2008-11-30

The protesters, seeking to oust Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat in the latest escalation in a long-running political crisis, have blockaded Bangkok's airports.

Reuters  -  Hundreds of anti-government protesters forced several dozen Thai riot police to abandon a checkpoint on Saturday as they tightened their siege of the country's main airport, witnesses said.

 

Around 2,000 People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) supporters forced back about 150 police from a kilometre (0.6 mile) north of Suvarnabhumi Airport, although the incident passed off without violence.

 

The protesters are seeking to oust Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat in the latest escalation in a long-running political crisis.

 

A day after their police chief was sacked for mishandling the protests, commanders on the ground said they would not yet try to evict by force the thousands of protesters at Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports.

 

But PAD supporters were taking no chances and on Saturday deflated the tyres of ambulances and police vehicles at the police checkpoint. Several vehicles were left stranded in the middle of the road.

 

The PAD say they are ready for a prolonged siege, with their "security guards" armed with clubs, sticks and golf clubs, and dug in behind a series of barricades of fire trucks, razor wire, car tyres and luggage trolleys.

 

PAD co-leader and retired general Chamlong Srimuang told supporters on Saturday not to go to Suvarnabhumi as there were enough people there and instead go to Government House, where the protests started months ago. "Too many people will not help if police shut us there. If you're on your way here, please go to the Government House because if police shut us here, we'll still have people to help," he said.

 

In a televised address on Thursday night, Prime Minister Somchai said the PAD members barricaded at the airports were doing massive damage to the economy, but he would avoid violence to end the protests.

 

GENTLE MEASURES

 

"Don't worry. Officials will use gentle measures to deal with them," Somchai said, inviting rights groups and journalists to monitor the imposition of emergency rule at the two airports.

 

Somchai took a tougher line with his police chief, demoting General Patcharawat Wongsuwan to an inactive post on Friday.

 

While no official reason was given, local newspapers made no bones about it on Saturday and said he had been sacked for refusing to send riot police in to end the protest.

 

The airport sit-ins have forced hundreds of flights to be cancelled, stranded thousands of foreign tourists and grounded millions of dollars of air cargo.

 

Thailand's three-year-old political crisis has deepened dramatically since the unelected PAD began a "final battle" on Monday to unseat Somchai, whom they accuse of being a pawn of former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, his brother-in-law.

 

Pressure is building on the army to oust the prime minister, as they did Thaksin in 2006, after Somchai rejected military calls to quit this week.

 

But army chief Anupong Paochinda has said he would not take over, arguing the military cannot heal fundamental political rifts between the Bangkok elite and middle classes, who despise Thaksin, and the poor rural and urban majority who love him.

 

Exporters were scrambling to get perishable goods and key components to customers around the world.

 

The question of compensation may arise later, but for now, they are focused on shipping goods, said Kasem Jariyawong, president of the Thai Air Freight Forwarders Association.

 

A prolonged closure of Suvarnabhumi, which can handle 3 million tonnes of cargo a year, would do serious damage to an export-driven economy already struggling to cope with a global slowdown, experts say.

 

Repairing Thailand's tarnished image as a safe place to do business and travel may also take time.

 

The government began shuttling thousands of stranded tourists by bus to U-Tapao, a Vietnam War-era naval airbase 150 km (90 miles) east of Bangkok, as an alternative landing site for airlines, but travellers reported delays and confusion.

Date created : 2008-11-29

COMMENT(S)