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Bangkok Crisis

Chaos called Bangkok

Nelson Alcantara  Nov 27, 2008

The situation in Bangkok is turning out to be the biggest blow the country’s tourism industry has ever had to face. Forget tsunamis or any other natural disasters for that matter, the actions of PAD protesters in just a matter of few days in their misguided and relentless efforts to overthrow the new and democratically elected prime minister have managed to put the future of Thailand tourism in jeopardy.

The Thai government has acted quickly to address the situation by opening routes to the airport. Last Wednesday, the Airport of Thailand (AoT) opened On Nut-Lat Krabang-King Kaeo, Bang Na-Trat and Motorway, which was open but congested.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand reacted quickly as well as told local tour coach drivers that they may need to be informed of this by their respective tour agencies. As swell, taxi service at the airport is available on the First Floor but not operating from Second to Fourth Floors. There are taxi and shuttle bus services available at the airport, TAT information officer Anuj Singhal told eTurboNews.

The below timeline details the crisis in Bangkok, as told by TAT:
November 25, 2008 / 21.00 hrs.:
The People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) anti-government protesters forced the partial closure of Suvarnabhumi International Airport when demonstrators broke through police lines and entered the Departure Lounge.
Inbound flights were still operating normally with aircraft being cleared for landing.

November 25, 2008 / 22.00 hrs.:
With anti-government protesters having blocked access to the airport via the main motorway and the main entrance, shortly after 21.00 hrs., Acting Airports of Thailand (AoT) president and Acting Suvarnabhumi Airport Director Serirat Prasutanont announced the cancellation of all flights departing from Suvarnabhumi International Airport. As a result, some passengers were stranded at the airport.

November 26, 2008 / 04.00 hrs.:
All inbound and outbound flights from Suvarnabhumi International Airport have been cancelled since 04.00 hrs. (21.00 GMT Tuesday)

For security reasons Suvarnabhumi Airport will be closed from Tuesday, November 25th, 21.00 hrs. onwards until further notice. The airport authorities have been negotiating with anti-government protesters to move their political rally to an alternative protest site to enable airport operations to resume as soon as possible.

November 26, 2008/ 08.00 hrs:
Thai Airways International (TG) announced that a total of 16 flights have been diverted to land at Don Mueang International Airport, while another three flights: TG508/Muscat-Karachi-Bangkok, TG520/Kuwait-Dubai-Bangkok and TG 941/Milan-Bangkok, have been diverted to land in U-Tapao Airport. All of THAI’s inbound and outbound flights from Suvarnabhumi International Airport are temporarily suspended until it resumes normal operations.

TAT added that THAI’s domestic flights, inbound and outbound from Don Mueang International Airport are operating normally, Don Mueang International Airport was operating normally.

As of Wednesday, the Thai government has not declared of State of Emergency, but has issued the following contacts:
Don Mueang Airport 02-535-1669 / 02-535-1616
Public Relations 02-535-1253
TG Flight Information 02-356-1111 or
Bangkok Airways 02-265-5678 or
Hot Line Bangkok Airways 1771
Nok Air 02-627-2000
Air Asia 02-515-9999 or
Suvarnabhumi Int’l Airport 02-132-1888 / 02-132-1882
Flight Information 02-132-000 / 02-132-9328-9
Security Center 02-132-4310 / 02-132-4000 / 02-535-1669
Ministry of Foreign AffairsEmergency Center (24 Hours) 02-643-5522
Hot Line Tourist Police 1155
Tourism Intelligence Unit and Crisis Management Center (TIC) 02-652-8313-4

In the face of the new crisis, the Australian and New Zealand governments have issued travel advisories to their citizens traveling to Bangkok, spelling out the uncertainties and risk of violence.

There were reports of four separate bombings at Suvarnabhumi Int’l Airport, with PAD protesters claiming injuries and deaths. Police have yet to confirm if there were indeed casualties from the bombings, which were questionable. There were conflicting accounts on Wednesday morning whether there were indeed three bombings or more. Authorities confirmed three bombings but did not elaborate on the extent of the injuries, if indeed there were.

What is clear is the fact that the Australian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), updated its travel advisory on Thailand, Wednesday morning. The statement advised its citizen to exercise a high degree of caution because of the uncertain political situation.

There have been large-scale political demonstrations and related incidents resulting in fatalities and injuries in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand, DFAT stated in its advisory.

Meanwhile, New Zealanders are being advised to defer their travel to Thailand if possible. Large scale political demonstrations have descended into violence, resulting in a number of injuries and fatalities, it warned.

There is a real security risk in Bangkok, the New Zealand government stated, citing the political situation in Thailand is uncertain and major demonstrations have taken place in central Bangkok, including in areas around Government House, Parliament and the two aforementioned airports.

In its travel warning, the New Zealand government said some demonstrations have resulted in violence between pro and anti-government protesters and some protestants have been injured or killed. “Further violence cannot be ruled out. Tourists are not being targeted by protesters but the potential remains for them to be caught up in violence directed at others.”

Access to Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport is currently blocked
and scheduled commercial flights have been disrupted. Departures have been suspended and some arriving flights are being diverted to other airports.

Travelers were advised on Wednesday to seek information from their travel agent or airline directly on potentially disrupted travel plans. As the situation remains unpredictable, future disruptions cannot be ruled out including at other airports and on other modes of transport within Thailand.

In addition to the cancelled flights out of two of Bangkok airports, Japan Airlines Corp., Singapore Airlines Ltd. and other Asian carriers have canceled flights to Bangkok for the second day in a row.

Chaos called Bangkok
Image via Reuters

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