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Phuket Airport on Sunday awaiting the exodus of tourists

Phuket Airport Unblocked: Smooth but 'Eerie'

Sunday, August 31, 2008
''IT's EERIE,'' said one of the first Phuket expat residents back into Phuket International Airport today, a consular official who dropped someone off for an 8.10pm Singapore flight.

''I know you don't expect smiles at the airport because it is so busy, but it was strange going in there.''

The consular official, an island businessman, was advised in advance by the airline that there was only one lane in.

As part of the effort to get as many people out as fast as possible, airport authorities made use of Terminal 2, which is usually strictly for charter flights.

The consular official's passenger was heading off to Singapore via Silk Air to make a connection for Australia, where he heads a large organisation.

''I was able to park out the front,'' the consular official said. ''That was a first.

''I thought it would take a bit of time so we allowed two hours. It was straight up, straight in.

''There wasn't even a card handed out for parking. I don't know whether that was because the glass on the booth had been broken or not, or whether it was just to make the process smoother.

''It certainly worked.''

The consular official said the only sign of People's Alliance for Democracy protestors was on the way out.

About 50 people were assembled near the exit.

''It looked as though someone in a white shirt was addressing the other protestors, but I kept on going.

''A trip to the airport has never been that smooth before. But it was definitely eerie.''

Airport Siege Day By Day:

Friday 1pm: Hundreds of PAD protestors assemble around Phuket International Airport. Passengers forced to alight from vehicles and walk to catch flights. Protest comes as a surprise because Phuket is an anti-government heartland.

Friday 4.50pm: All flights from Phuket halted after protestors break into VIP rooms then invade the runway. The protest is non-violent except for broken glass. Police are present but as in Bangkok, choose not to react.

Friday 8.30pm: Lone flight carrying 137 stranded passengers and Phuket's Governor heads for Bangkok. Governor Niran Kanlayanamid has an appointment at a ceremony with the Crown Prince.

Friday night: Airport officials agree to further talks. Protestors and police go home.

Saturday morning: Protestors reassemble. Police are at the airport but Vice Governor insists there will be no violence. Stranded passengers arrive at airport in hope of flights resumption.

Saturday afternoon: Airport General Manager Wing Commander Wicha Nurnlop says that in some ways, the airport blockade is ''worse than the 2004 tsunami.'' He ceases setting potential times for flights to resume.

Saturday 9.30pm: Talks aimed at breaking deadlock resume between PAD, splinter group of resort unions and airport authorities.

Sunday 1am: Talks break up. One protest leader says protestors will vote on course of action later in the morning. Flights could be back Monday, he says.

Sunday 11am: Protestors prepare to continue blockade. Then the announcement comes: the protest at the airport is over, and flights are to resume later in the day.

Sunday 3.50pm: A Thai Airways Boeing 777 carrying 335 passengers from Bangkok touches down, first of the airlift.

Next: The mass exodus, and a big welcome for incoming holidaymakers.

Essential Reading:

Touchdown! Flights Return to Phuket Airport
The siege of Phuket ended today with the first flight from Bangkok touching down at 3.50pm. Protestors decided the airport could reopen. International flights will resume as fast as all 11 airlines can manage. Tourists should check with airlines before setting off.
Touchdown! Flights Return to Phuket Airport

Phuket Air Crisis: Protestors to Consider Options
Talks break up early Sunday; Protestors to discuss an end to standoff; Flights may not resume before Monday; No time set yet for flights in or out of Phuket to resume; Stranded tourists running out of money.
Phuket Air Crisis: Protestors to Consider Options

Phuket Paralysed: No Sign of Flights As Deadlines Pass
Phuket Airport will not reopen; PAD wants Prime Minister to resign first; Police Chief joins crisis meeting; Tourist turn up for missing flights and ask: Why?
Phuket Paralysed: No Flights As Deadlines Pass

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

Phuket Airport Invasion: Night of Uncertainty
No flights in or out of Phuket until 6am on Saturday. Why is Phuket's tourism industry now part of a political dispute? That was the question being asked as anti-government protestors continued to occupy the island's international airport, forcing a halt to all flights.
Phuket Airport Invasion: Night of Uncertainty

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

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.
Siege of Phuket Airport Blow by Blow


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