Thai protesters lay siege to Bangkok airport

November 25th, 2008 - 9:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangkok, Nov 25 (DPA) Thai protestors Tuesday blocked the main road access road to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport in an effort to prevent the return of Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat who was scheduled to return Wednesday.Police set up a blockade to prevent about 1,000 protestors, members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), from entering the airport and creating problems for passengers.

“At the moment it’s just causing an inconvenience, but some people may miss their flights if this continues,” said a spokesperson at Suvarnabhumi Airport’s public relations department.

PAD core-leader Somsak Khosaisuk ordered the protestors to go to the airport to block the return of Somchai, who was originally scheduled to arrive in Bangkok Wednesday afternoon on a chartered flight from Lima, Peru, where he attended the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation.

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

The protestors 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 army chief said a coup was out of the question, saying the armed services already had troops ready to prevent anarchy and stop political clashes.

The well-organized anti-government PAD on Monday succeeded in suspending parliamentary business and chasing the cabinet around town but appeared unable to spark the “final battle” needed to topple the government by Wednesday as pledged, observers said.

The government’s evasive manoeuvres, while succeeding in avoiding a confrontation with the increasingly aggressive PAD, have had a toll on it’s image.

“They (the PAD) are losing popularity, but at the same time, they have been able to let people see that the government can’t administer the country,” said Chaturon Chaisaeng, a former head of Thaksin’s now defunct political party.

The armed forces, which ousted prime minister Thaksin in a bloodless September 2006 coup, appear to be trying to remain above the fray as pro- and anti-Thaksin forces tussle for dominance.

“Anupong doesn’t want to have a coup, but he is also not helping the government either,” Chaturon said.

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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