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PAD PROTEST: Phuket Airport overrun, runways blocked

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PAD PROTEST: Phuket Airport overrun, runways blocked | Thaiger

PHUKET AIRPORT: At about 4:45 pm today, People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protesters breached the main gate at Phuket International Airport, made their way into the main terminal and smashed the windows of the VIP lounge.

Several hundred protesters stormed the runways and airport officials have ordered a halt to all air traffic.

Police have been called in from around the island to supervise the anti-government rally, which had swelled to an estimated 10,000 protesters by 3:30 pm.

The THAI Airways Union has allowed their 15,000 staffers to stop work to show their support for the protest.

Earlier, at about 2:30 pm, the protesters used vehicles to block road access to the airport.

Tourists with outbound flights to catch have been forced to walk several kilometers with their luggage, then clamber over a two-meter spiked security fence.

The traffic tailback now stretches about five kilometers.

Some arriving passengers have been seen walking down Mai Khao Beach in a desperate bid to get out of the area without crossing the PAD protesters.

A growing number of passengers are now trapped inside the airport and the only movement seems to be through a back door at the airport’s staff housing complex.

Just before posting this news online, the Gazette received reports that about 1,000 protesters had marched to the PIA Director’s Office Building, just north of the main parking lot, and some 400 protesters breached the gate at the main entrance and were now heading to the airport, where the scene has been described as “chaos”.

Recent additions to the swelling number of protesters include hundreds of university students.

While the crowds gathered in Phuket chanting “fight for the King”, Phuket Senator Thanyarat Atchariyachai took to the PAD stage in Bangkok to drum up national support for their cause.

Protest organizers at the airport told Gazette reporters at the scene that they will remain at the airport until Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej resigns.

PAD members will close down airports in other provinces as well, they said.

There have been no reports of injury, however.

As the protesters prepare for tonight, supplies of food and drink have been arriving and a mobile ICU from Bangkok Hospital Phuket has been put on standby.

One German tourist who fought his way through the crowd to get out of the airport said, “Even if there is no tsunami, the people here know how to create their own disasters.”

PIA Director Wicha Nernlop said, “The PAD are destroying the airport’s assets, which makes no sense because we are not their enemy.”

He suggested that passengers with scheduled flights contact their airlines directly and try to postpone, if possible.

Phuket Provincial Police Commander Apirak Hongthong said that a meeting had been held on the issue, but did not say if or when police would try to forcibly remove the protesters.

Const Tongchai Keerat of Tah Chat Chai Police, one of about 90 officers at the airport, said he sympathized with the protesters because the government in Bangkok “is corrupt and embezzling money from the people”.

A group of officers at Phuket City Police Station told a Gazette reporter earlier today that the police would not harm the protesters “because our parents are among them”.

One action the police did take was to set up a checkpoint in Koh Kaew, near the entrance road to British International School, to prevent large vehicles carrying PAD supporters joining the protest.

The checkpoint has delayed traffic in the area.

A source from PIA said many luxury vehicles were among those blockading the airport access roads, indicating that “high-level” people are supporting the rally.

 

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