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Bangkok airport remains closed

BANGKOK, 26 Nov 2008: The Suvarnabhumi Airport today remained closed and dozens of flights were cancelled as anti-government protesters continued to block all roads leading to Thailand’s main gateway. 

The Airport of Thailand (AOT) authority had earlier said it wanted to reopen the airport at noon but this did not materialise as anti-government supporters had taken over the airport.

The supporters of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) had declared their intention to close the airport until Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat resigns.

He is due to return today from attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Peru, but his flight is expected to be diverted to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.

While several thousand PAD supporters remained at the passenger terminals and outside, a number of protesters were also seen trying to enter the aeronautical radio and air traffic control towers while yet another group was making its way to a road leading to the tarmac.

Despite assurances from the Thai authorities that they would provide security to the over 3,000 passengers stranded at the airport, a very minimal police presence was seen.

However, airport authorities said an Iran Air flight carrying 416 Thai Muslims going for the Haj would be allowed to take off at noon.  

The airport was closed at 9 pm last night for outbound flights while some inbound flights were diverted to other international airports in the country, as well as the Utapao Airport in Chun Buri.

One of the diverted flights was that of Indian Airlines, which touched down at Utapao but the passengers were stranded as there were no facilities there to accommodate foreign passengers.

Among the flights cancelled today were Malaysia Airlines’ four flights to Kuala Lumpur, as well as Air Asia’s seven flights to Kuala Lumpur, and several others to Penang and Johor Baru in Malaysia.

MAS’s Area Manager for Thailand, A Vijayakumaran, said passengers with the Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur ticket could use the same ticket to fly from Phuket.

He said the airline has also set up an emergency crisis centre which passengers could contact to get the latest developments (tel: +6622630565-71 or +6621343184). — Bernama


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