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THAILAND

Riot police converge on airport as talks continue

Text by: FRANCE 24 (with wires)
2 min

Dozens of riot police are reportedly gathering at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport as talks on ending the blockade of the country's two main airports continue between police and anti-government protesters.

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Dozens of riot police with truncheons and shields began gathering at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport on Friday as talks between police negotiators and protesters continued.

 

Earlier, police said they hoped talks with protest leaders would end the siege, but warned they would "take other steps" if they failed.

 

"We are asking them to allow the airport to resume operations," Lieutenant-General Suchart Muenkaew, the chief police negotiator, told reporters.

 

"We will keep talking, but if it fails we will take other steps. The last step will be to disperse them."

 

A state of emergency remains in place at the city's two main airports, where all flights have been cancelled, stranding thousands of tourists.

 

Thailand's government will use "gentle measures" against protesters blockading Bangkok's two main airports, Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said in a televised address on Friday.

 

"Don't worry. Officials will use gentle measures to deal with them," Somchai said, and invited human rights and media organisations to observe and film the process.

 

The prime minister sacked his national police chief on Friday, a day after declaring a state of emergency and ordering police to handle protesters besieging Bangkok's main airports.

 

No official reason was given for the order moving General Patcharawat Wongsuwan to an inactive post in the prime minister's office.

 

The sieges at Don Muang and SuvarnabhumiInternationalAirport have cut the Thai capital's air links to the world, leaving thousands stranded and hurting the tourist-dependent economy.

 

The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce said if the political turmoil and airport closures go on for another month, it would cost the economy up to 215 billion baht ($6 billion).

 

A government spokesman said the economy could lose at least 100 billion baht ($2.8 billion) if the sieges drag on for a month, and GDP growth for the year could be cut to 4 percent from a current estimate of 4.5 percent, already a seven-year low.

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