Thai protesters disrupt Bangkok airport

Thai protesters disrupt Bangkok airport

Bangkok: Anti-government protesters stormed the control tower at Bangkok’s main international airport on Wednesday, newspaper text messages to subscribers said.

The Bangkok Post said masked members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) invaded the control tower at Suvarnabhumi airport, a day after they stormed the main terminal, prompting airlines to cancel flights.

Earlier, a series of small bomb blasts wounded several anti-government protesters blockading the airport, protest leaders said, as chaos ruled inside the terminal.

One bomb wounded four members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a spokesman said, hours after the PAD stormed the airport late on Tuesday in a dramatic escalation of its six-month campaign to oust Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.

The Nation newspaper said on its website three explosions had been heard outside the $4 billion terminal, the gateway for nearly 15 million tourists to Thailand last year.

The Nation said a fourth blast appeared to target PAD supporters in another part of Bangkok. It said 12 people were wounded in the overnight attacks, but police have not confirmed the casualties.

Somchai was due to return from an Asia-Pacific summit in Peru on Wednesday afternoon, amid rumours he may declare a state of emergency. A government spokesman said he would not land at Suvarnabhumi.

“I will get off the plane wherever it lands," the Bangkok Post quoted him as saying from Peru.

Thousands of passengers slept overnight on benches and luggage carousels, many annoyed that airport staff fled when the PAD demonstrators, dressed in their movement’s yellow shirts, invaded the terminal, forcing officials to cancel flights.

Thai Airways, the national carrier, said 16 inbound flights had been diverted to Bangkok’s old airport Don Muang, 45 kms from Suvarnabhumi, and another three flights to a Vietnam War-era airbase 150 kms southeast of Bangkok.

Budget carrier Air Asia, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific halted service to the Thai capital, a major regional hub with 125,000 passengers passing through Suvarnabhumi daily.

Singapore has advised its citizens not to visit Thailand.

Police have gone out of their way to avoid a fight since the PAD began its “final push" on Monday to unseat the government it accuses of being a pawn of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives in exile.

Gunfire broke out on the streets of the capital on Tuesday as armed PAD members opened fire on government supporters.

At least 11 people were hurt, officials said, in violent scenes shown on Thai television.

Bloodshed could provoke another coup, a publicly stated goal of the PAD, but army chief General Anupong Paochinda has said another military intervention would not heal Thailand’s deep political rifts.

Markets were under some pressure after the latest eruption in a political deadlock that is entering its fourth year. Stocks were down nearly 2% and the baht was trading at 35.28, after hitting a 21-month low of 35.36 earlier in the day.