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Storm clouds over Thailand: Phuket protest on Tuesday evening:

Phuket Flights: Peaceful Protest Spares Airport

Tuesday, September 2, 2008
PROTESTORS took control of Phuket's Provincial Hall this evening in a demonstration designed to avoid further strife at the island's international airport.

The day began with concerns that protests at the airport could be renewed and closed with thunder and rain as a large crowd of protestors occupied the grounds of Provincial Hall, the island's government headquarters.

It was an arrangement that left the television cameras with images of roads being blocked, and protestors protesting, while the airport remained open and travellers came and went.

Phuket remained peaceful, and it looked like staying that way. A visitor to the airport this evening reported: ''I was in and out, and not a demonstrator in sight.''

The declaration of a state of emergency this morning in Bangkok and union action calling for the resignation of Prime Minster Samak Sunthoravaj took tension to a new level in Thailand.

At first, there were some concerns about what might happen on Phuket.

Airport General Manager Wicha Nurnlop told Phuketwan that he had informed Governor Niran of the need to protect the airport.

But there was no immediate danger of a repetition of the weekend's three-day blockade.

The Chief of Phuket Police, Major General Apirak Hongtong, said there were no concerns at present on Phuket and all precautions were being taken.

Leaders of the main protest group, the People's Alliance for Democracy, have been told by the Phuket tourism and business community to keep their protests low-key and not damage the island's peaceful image.

Governor Niran Kanlayanamid and Major General Apirak were among those who met this morning for 90 minutes at Provincial Hall, where a demonstration grew in size during the afternoon.

A crowd of about 600 protestors gathered on the broad expanse of lawns by 3pm to listen to speeches and applaud at the appropriate times.

The demonstration was peaceful, and the police presence was minimal. However, awnings were being erected, and mobile toilets were being brought in, indicating the crowd was likely to swell this evening.

According to The Nation online breaking news: ''Supporters of the People's Alliance for Democracy have seized the Phuket provincial hall, Sondhi Limthongkul, a PAD leader, told the protesters at Government House at 12:20 pm.''

To Phuketwan on the spot, it looked more like a peaceful picnic in the park. And so it remained, until clouds burst over the crowd at 8.35pm, dampening the protest..

Are you bound for a holiday on Phuket? If so, please tell us via the Comment box below


Yet another twist in Thailand's long-running political rollercoaster came today with the Election Commission ruling that the PM's PPP (People Power Party) should be disbanded for complicity in vote-buying by a party executive member in the December 23 general election.

Earlier in Bangkok, Khun Samak told a televised media conference that he has no intention of giving in to calls for his resignation.

Khun Samak said he imposed the state of emergency, which gives him extra powers, to stabilise the country. He called for the restoration of commonsense and reason.

The state of emergency in Bangkok bans gatherings of more than five people.

Khun Samak said that his opponents should not use antagonism towards him as an excuse to damage Thailand. His speech was telecast nationwide.

Clashes in Bangkok have left at least one person dead and dozens more were hurt in the fighting early on Tuesday, the BBC reported.

The fighting began after supporters of Khun Samak pushed through police lines near Government House, occupied by the PAD.

PAD supporters, who have been pressing for the PM's downfall by occupying government buildings, say the government is a front for the exiled former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Phuket expat Larry Cunningham, developer of The Chava apartment resort at Surin Beach, spoke for many resorts when he said: ''If there is another airport closure, you can forget about tourism for the next 12 months.

''When we were hit by natural disasters, tourists said they would come back again to help Phuket people. But with this man-made disaster, they will not return.''

Coincidentally, the former PM has sold his share of Britaian's Manchester City football club in a 210 million pound deal with Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG), a holding company set up by Middle East investors, backed by the country's royal family

The Arab group is fronted by Sulaiman Al Fahim, a multi-billionaire nicknamed the ''Donald Trump of Abu Dhabi,'' who has pledged to invest enough to break up the hold of Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal at the top of the premier league.

Mr Thaksin was affectionately dubbed ''Frank'' by City supporters.

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. Thai Airways flights are coming every hour from Bangkok.

Sunday Night: One visitor reports that the atmosphere at the airport is ''eerie'' but the mass exodus proceeds smoothly.

Monday: Flights continue smoothly. Resort managers report cancellations for this week and some for next high season as well.

Tuesday: Declaration of emergency in Bangkok renews concerns for Phuket International Airport. Governor and island leaders meet to consider what might happen next.

Essential Reading:

Phuket Resorts Report Cancellations, Uncertainty
With a state of emergency announced today in Bangkok, a survey of Phuket resorts indicates that the airport siege cost the tourism industry dearly. One thing is sure: Phuket is no longer the haven from political unrest it was last week.
Phuket Resorts Report Cancellations, Uncertainty

Phuket Flights Return: Island Counts Cost
Phuket is flying again. Perhaps not as high as it would like yet, but that will come in time. What was the cost of the airport blockade and what are the lessons for the island? Here's our analysis.

Phuket Flights Return: Island Counts Cost

Touchdown! Flights Return to Phuket Airport
The siege of Phuket ends with the first flight from Bangkok touching down at 3.50pm. 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.
The Siege of Phuket Airport Blow by Blow

Look for
TRENDS
every day, Monday to Friday, at Phuketwan. It's essential reading. To tell us your news, email bigislandmedia@gmail.com or telephone 081 6513489.

Comments

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I am booked to come to Phuket tomorrow. . . I would really love to make it there and hope it is a peaceful time . . . it will be my first time in Thailand. <b>Editor:</b> The Thai people are generous, charming and hospitable, and committed to a peaceful resolution of their current political crisis. You should have a great time.

Posted by Emma on September 2, 2008 10:15

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I am scheduled to arrive in phuket on Friday evening and am a little worried about the current situation. i am coming from Australia and am trying to understand if there are any dangers? Can you help? <b>Editor:</b> We can help but we can't make guarantees. If you are coming direct to Phuket, chances are you will experience no problems. Bangkok is a little uncertain, although as in Phuket, there are sound reasons for not turning tourism into politics. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by Anonymous on September 2, 2008 13:03

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I am coming to Phuket this Friday morning, I am hoping the protests remain peaceful and the airport remains open.. This will be my first time to Thailand. Congratulations on your excellent coverage of these events. <b>Editor: </b>Thanks Protests are continuing but away from the airport today. Thailand is a wonderful place and, while we can't make any guarantees, the airport is open today and likely to stay that way.

Posted by Steve on September 2, 2008 13:07

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My husband, two sons and I are supposed to be visiting Phuket from October 4. This would have the first time our sons had visited another country and only the second time my husband and I have been overseas (away from our home in Australia). However if these problems with the airport continue, we will be reconsidering our options. <b>Editor:</b> Thailand is a great place for you to start your boys off on their world travels. At this stage, another siege seems unlikely. Here's hoping you all enjoy your visit.

Posted by Donna on September 2, 2008 13:47

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My husband and 2 young children are due to arrive in Phuket on Oct 10 and really hope that their first introduction to another culture is a safe an positive one. Having been to Thailand with my husband some time ago, we have great memories of the country and the lovely people. I hope this is not spoilt nor the opportunity to continue a great tourist industry.

Posted by Rose on September 2, 2008 16:54

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Great coverage of what's happening with this situation in Phuket! We are coming to Phuket on the 10th and whilst I am determined to make it over there, my parents are not so enthusiastic! They will worry the entire time we are there. But I can't wait to get there and am hoping there is nothing that disrupts our long planned holiday!

Posted by Sue on September 2, 2008 17:27

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My husband and I spent our Honeymoon 10 years ago in Phuket. We vowed to return 10 years later for a second Honeymoon. Coming from the US, this is to happen on September 19 via Bangkok. We will be extremely disappointed if we have to cancel. <b>Editor:</b> How romantic, and what a place the island must have been back then. Phuket has grown in 10 years but it is still a great honeymoon destination. If the tension in Bangkok escalates beyond this week, we will be surprised and saddened. We hope Wednesday or Thursday brings a resolution.

Posted by Debbie on September 2, 2008 23:31

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We are due to come to Phuket on September 17 for our fifth trip to Thailand. We have always had a fabulous time in Thailand and enjoyed all that it has to offer our family. However, I must admit, bringing my nine-year-old daughter there this time is a little worrying. Here's hoping all settles down before we arrive. It is such a shame as the tourism in Thailand is going to be severely affected by all of these protests.

Posted by Jodie on September 3, 2008 04:02

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We had booked a trip for this Saturday but had cancelled our hotel booking and shelf our plans. This uncertainty is very frustrating. By the way, Air Asia's service is very bad, they are very unhelpful and not understanding towards the customers' plight in times like this.

Posted by jl on September 3, 2008 15:15

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I am due to arrive with my wife and our best friend for our very first trip to Thailand, specifically Phuket. We could have travelled anywhere in the world, but chose Phuket because of the legendary hospitality (tuk-tuk drivers excluded) that everyone talks about. I sincerely hope that all parties involved resolve their differences in the upcoming few weeks. I will cancel our trip if necessary, but hope that we will be able to land in a peaceful Bangkok and Phuket.

Posted by Lee S. on September 3, 2008 15:59

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This is an incentive trip for our company and we are due to arrive in Phuket On Saturday, 6 September. There are 16 of us in total. Some of the staff are very concerned about the current situation and contemplating to cancel. I hope you can shed some light on the actual situation in Phuket so as to calm the sceptical few. Most of us are still very keen to go but it would be better if everybody goes. <b>Editor:</b> Phuket is back to normal. The people who raided the airport last weekend have admitted it was a big mistake. There is no concern because Phuket loves visitors. In any case, the leaders of the protest are now in Bangkok, expecting the current Prime Minister to resign at any minute.

Posted by KT on September 3, 2008 21:27

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i am coming to Phuket on Monday morning and going straight to Phuket where i am staying at Patong, just wanting to know if it will be safe for the next two weeks ? <b>Editor:</b> Protestors have promised not to block Phuket Airport again and the island seems to be completely safe. Two weeks is a long time in Thai politics right now but I am prepared to say that problems for tourists on the island are extremely unlikely. Everything is normal. The airport siege was a silly mistake that is not likely to be repeated. And Patong is still Patong. Enjoy your stay.

Posted by Stewy on September 4, 2008 10:18

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My husband and I are coming to Phuket on September 8 and looking forward to it. I look at it one way, there could be problems in any country, even Australia. Very excited about seeing Phuket. <b>Editor:</b> Phuket gets us very excited, too. Every day is different. You are lucky because there won't be quite so many people to spoil your view. Phuket is safe and the likelihood of a less than peaceful solution in Bangkok is slim. Hope you two have a great time.

Posted by Emma on September 4, 2008 17:25

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I'm coming back to Phuket on the 17th with my two kids (11 & 13) for 10 days and wouldn't miss the trip for the world. I've been the last two years and love it so much that I'd be back there even if I had to swim from Singapore. It's unfortunate that these things happen from time to time but I was in Bangkok for the coup in '06, and my arrival was postponed 12hrs by the Phuket plane crash in '07 and I still want to get back there. I love the place, love the people, love the weather, love it all. See you soon, Patong. <b>Editor:</b> Great to have you back, but please, don't bring any more chaos.

Posted by Jason F on September 5, 2008 13:11


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