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Stranded mother and daughter from Beijing on Saturday

Phuket Air Blockade is Over: Flights To Resume

Sunday, August 31, 2008

THOUSANDS of tourists were forced to extend their holidays on Phuket as a blockade of the island's international airport by anti-government protestors entered its third day today.

After late-night crisis meetings extended past midnight but failed to resolve the crisis, leaders of the local People's Alliance for Democracy and a union splinter group were to hold fresh consensus discussions with members this morning.

One protest leader told Phuketwan that it could be Monday before the planes are flying again. Airlines, all anxiously awaiting a resumption, require six hours' notice to reschedule flights and organise crews.

Tourists are being advised to await notification from their resorts of a resumption of flights, not to proceed to the airport in the hope that flights are available again.

Phuketwan believes a growing number of protestors within PAD are concerned about the long-term impact on Phuket if the stoppage continues.

Meanwhile, resort managers on the island and around the Andaman region were counting the huge cost to the island in lost revenue and a tainted image as a tourism destination.

The PAD has been protesting at the airport since about 1pm on Friday. Scores of flights in and out of the island by 11 airlines have been cancelled since aircraft were forced to stop flying a few hours later.

While many of the demonstrators rely on tourism for a living, they insist that Thailand's Prime Minster Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej should resign before flights are allowed to resume.

In Bangkok, members of PAD have occupied government buildings for several days now in an attempt to bring down a government they say is corrupt.

On Saturday and Sunday, newspapers around the world gave space to reports of stranded tourists on the holiday island.

In Singapore, the Straits Times says that Phuket's tourism authority and hotels' associations are ''scrambling to help stranded tourists by handing out room discounts and arranging buses out of the island for those who need to catch connecting flights from Bangkok.

''The timing could not be worse for the popular tourist destination, which will soon head into its peak tourist season.

''With most Europeans choosing country packages for the peak year-end travel season around now, Thai travel agents are worried that the protests may drive Phuket's customers to Bali or Vietnam instead.''

Australia's largest newspaper, the Herald-Sun, reports that hundreds of Australian travellers have been caught up in the protests, with Jetstar diverting its Sydney-Phuket flight to Bangkok

In Dubai, the Khaleej Times says that about 15,000 passengers were ''stranded on the holiday isle of Phuket on Saturday, as hundreds of anti-government protesters blocked access to the island's airport.''

The BBC reports that the PM continues to reject calls for his resignation and adds: ''For a second day, demonstrations also closed two major airports - Phuket and Krabi - in the south of the country, where protesters prevented planes from landing and taking off by occupying the runways.

''A third regional airport, Hat Yai, reopened on Saturday.''

The Star Online in Malaysia quotes Thai AirAsia's chief executive officer Tassapon Bijleveld as saying that his team is trying to get more than 100 passengers bound for Kuala Lumpur into nearby hotels.

Malaysia Airlines' director of operations Datuk Tajuden Abu Bakar says passengers who have checked in at Kuala Lumpur and Phuket have been provided with hotel accommodation.

On Phuket, Bill Wavish, the executive chairman of a large Australian retail company, was reasonably content to have the three day holiday with his wife Yvonne forcibly extended.

''I'll get home when I get home, I guess,'' he said. ''It's not the end of the world.''

For a housewife from Beijing, interviewed at Phuket airport, the lack of flights was a little more complicated.

After a five-day family island holiday, her husband had to go to Singapore for business, and her nine-year-old daughter had to be back at school in Beijing on Monday.

As the day wore on, it became evident that there was no prospect of any of them catching their connecting flights from Bangkok at midnight.

''We will have to work out what we do next,'' she said. There were thousand more across the island facing the same problem today.

Bangkok is about 12 hours away by road. A recent roadtest by Phuketwan indicated that a ticket on a 24-seat air-conditioned VIP bus provides plenty of leg room and comfort.

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.

Essential Reading:

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.
The Siege of Phuket Airport Blow by Blow


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Not correct - there is one comment but it was classifed as "spamblot"

COULD YOU KINDLY EXPLAIN,WHY THIS MESSAGE IS CONSIDERED AS A SPAMBOT ??????????????????? <b>Editor: </b> Sorry, no idea. Maybe it's a problem at your end.

Posted by KIB on August 31, 2008 15:23

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