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Probably the last two tourists turned away by the airport blockade

Phuket Flights Return, Island Counts The Cost

Monday, September 1, 2008
Monday TRENDS: Crisis ANALYSIS

NOW THAT the planes are back in the air, a review should be made in good time of the siege of Phuket International Airport, and what it means for the island.

What Phuketwan saw over the three days of the crisis was some measured reaction on the part of the authorities to a potentially dangerous situation.

On Friday, we didn't see any ''riot police and water cannon on standby,'' as one local outlet reported. We saw a considered reaction to a difficult situation.

What appeared online in almost the entire national and local English media, or in some cases did not appear, should alarm islanders.

Anyone who was here during the tsunami knows that we all need dependable information in a crisis, and also in its aftermath.

In the frontline for the weekend blockade, the efforts by the people in charge of the airport seemed especially praiseworthy.

At every turn, they sought to resolve the situation. Early indications on Sunday were that the air exodus was going even more smoothly than could be expected.

And let's face it, the tourists who really suffered were the ones who couldn't start their holiday on time, or those who were forced to go somewhere else.

Most of the tourists we talked to who were stuck on Phuket were not excessively disturbed by being forced to overstay their holiday, and often at someone else's expense.

What was your blockade experience? Please share it with us via the Comment box below!


In practical terms, the cost may have been 250 million baht a day, as one tourism industry leader told us.

The real damage was done to an organisation, and an island's image.

Thousands of tourists will now not be coming. Even a hint of violence scares many people away.

Almost inevitably, jobs on the island will be lost. Yet it could have been worse, but for cool heads.

The People's Alliance for Democracy pulled a stunt that should never have been pulled, a stunt that has only made the national political scene even more uncertain.

And Phuket suffered. Poor old Phuket. The tourism industry now has another marketing problem to overcome, a name-blackening that was entirely unnecessary.

Every organisation, even good ones, produces bad ideas from time to time. As islanders like the rest of us, we will leave judgements about the success or failure of the protest to the PAD.

And the flaws in the local media will undoubtedly be addressed by the people in charge.

In a crisis, whether it be a tsunami or an airport blockade, Phuket needs to know what's going on.

Islanders must have timely and reliable information, not days without a single paragraph appearing, or wild speculation, or factually incorrect material from ''nameless but trusted'' sources.

As for the impact of the blockade on the outside world and the awareness of the PAD and politics in Thailand, all we can do is quote in its entirety a report we read today on the Seoul Times site:

Headline: ''Over 500 Korean Tourists Stranded in Phuket''

''About 500 South Korean tourists have been stranded on a Thai island as anti-government protesters there forced its airport to close, Yonhap News quoted travel agencies here as having said on Aug. 31.

''The South Korean travellers have been forced to stay at hotels on Phuket as the resort destination's international airport was closed for a third day.

''Protesters have blocked the runways at some of Thailand's most popular beach resorts, leaving thousands of foreign tourists stranded.

''Travel agencies said the Thai government is working to normalize Phuket airport's operation, but it is still unclear when flights will resume.

''Meanwhile, all South Korean flights to the island were canceled on Saturday and the South Korean Foreign Ministry advised citizens to avoid travelling to Thailand due to worsening political unrest in the Southeast Asian nation.

''Phuket is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia among South Koreans.''

Our conclusion is that those tourists from Korea who continue to come to the island after a report like this one will be none the wiser about the siege of Phuket airport, or its real significance.

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.

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

Essential Reading:

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.

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Comments

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It just goes to show you that the mob rules in Thailand. There is not law.

Posted by Anonymous on September 1, 2008 09:20


Monday May 20, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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