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Signs on the counters at Phuket airport on Saturday

Phuket Airport Invasion: Long Night of Uncertainty

Friday, August 29, 2008

A NIGHT OF tension was being experienced across Thailand after a day in which peaceful anti-government protests took a frightening turn in Bangkok and, to almost everyone's surprise, in the popular holiday destination of Phuket as well.

In Bangkok, where the Peoples Alliance for Democracy has been pressing every day for the removal of the national government they claim is tainted by disgraced former Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra, the conflict edged closer to violence.

In Phuket, free from any form of confrontation until this afternoon, PAD supporters took over the island's international airport and brought the Andaman region's tourist industry to a standstill.

Phuketwan took a call from Munich this evening. Former president of the Lions Club of Phuket, Ernest Hrabalek, was planning his trip home and wondering what was happening.

He said friends in Germany had been watching television footage from Thailand. One asked him: ''Why are you going there? It looks dangerous.''

He will definitely come back, if there's a flight he can catch. Many others will not be coming.

Only with time will the rationale for protesters halting the flow of overseas and domestic tourists to Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi be revealed.

Tonight, the logic for invading the Phuket airport and forcing about 30 international flights to divert was lost on local Thai tourism industry leaders.

With one voice, they condemned the occupation of the airport, and especially the damaging effect on overseas tourism at the worst possible time for Phuket.

Stopping domestic flights between Bangkok and the island also seemed to be of no gain to an increasingly powerful movement that, until today, has voiced its resentment solely against the government, not everyday working Thais or overseas tourists.

Union stoppages on several fronts seemed to be enhancing the PAD's position, and the province of Phuket has a long history of supporting opposition to Thaksin Shinawatra and his successor.

Yet the people who will suffer because of the airport invasion by protestors are the people of Phuket, and thousands of innocent bystander tourists.

They will all be entitled to ask why they have been treated so appallingly.

Phuket's Days of Drama:

Phuket Siege Lifts For Lone Flights to Bangkok
With international flights bound for Phuket being diverted and the island's airport shut down, a special plea was made for PAD leaders to allow one flight to beat the blockade and carry stranded passengers to Bangkok.

Phuket Siege Lifts For Lone Flights to Bangkok

Siege of Phuket Airport Blow by Blow
PAD protestors besiege Phuket International Airport; Thai Airways suspends all flights nationally; Reports of protestors on tarmac; All flights halted; Governor in crisis talks with PAD leaders; Phuket police chief calls in reinforcements.

The Siege of Phuket Airport Blow by Blow

Phuket Siege Latest: International Flights Diverted
Flights in and out of Phuket are not likely to resume before Saturday morning. Phuket airport was tonight in the hands of PAD anti-government protestors after 30 international flights were turned away.

Phuket Siege Latest: International Flights Diverted


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