Protesters shut down Bangkok’s international airport (Lead)

November 25th, 2008 - 11:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangkok, Nov 25 (DPA) Anti-government protesters Tuesday forced a temporary closure of departure flights from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport, airport officials confirmed.”Arriving flights are still coming in but we’ve stopped all departures,” said a Suvarnabhumi Airport spokeswoman, who asked to remain anonymous.

The protesters, belonging to the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), laid siege to the airport Tuesday evening as part of their efforts to topple the government by Wednesday.

“We have prevailed. We are victorious. We have succeeded in blocking off the airport,” said PAD core leader Chamlong Srimuang.

PAD protesters moved to the airport Tuesday evening where they succeeded in partially blocking the main access road to the facility in their efforts to prevent the return home of Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, who was scheduled to arrive Wednesday on a chartered flight from Lima, Peru, where he attended the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation.

The police set up a blockade to prevent the 1,000 PAD protesters from entering the airport, causing a traffic pile-up, but eventually failed to turn back the demonstrators.

Earlier Tuesday, the PAD marched on the Royal Thai Army headquarters in northern Bangkok to thwart the cabinet from meeting.

The protesters also demanded Tuesday that the powerful army chief, General Anupong Paojinda, join them in pressuring the government, which they accuse of being a proxy for the exiled political strongman Thaksin Shinawatra, to stand down.

The PAD is a loose alliance of disparate groups bound together by their hatred of Thaksin, a former billionaire telecommunications tycoon who was prime minister between 2001 to 2006.

Although living in self-exile, Thaksin still controls the Thai government through his money, political cronies and relations. Prime Minister Somchai, for example, is his brother-in-law.

Last month Thailand’s Supreme Court sentenced Thaksin to two years in jail for abuse of power when he was prime minister in 2003 for allowing his wife to successfully bid on a plot of land at a government auction.

PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul called this week’s protest the “final battle”, vowing to bring the government down by Wednesday, after holding continuous street protests and demonstrations in Bangkok for six months.

The PAD has been holding anti-government rallies in Bangkok since May, this year, reaching a peak on Aug 26 when the movement successfully seized and occupied Government House - the seat of the executive body.

The government has been forced to shift its office to Don Mueang Airport - Bangkok’s old international airport.

On Monday, after successfully cancelling a parliament session, the PAD marched on Don Mueang, forcing ministers to flee the facility.

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