- Title: THAILAND: Bangkok airport saga drags on as police seek talks
- Date: 29th November 2008
- Summary: BANGKOK, THAILAND (NOVEMBER 29, 2008) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF SUVARNABHUMI AIRPORT PROTEST BANNER READING AS 'SOMCHAI GET OUT'
- Embargoed: 14th December 2008 12:00
- Location: Thailand
- Country: Thailand
- Topics: Police,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAAH9QPGKZ5VQ2F6D5PM9AB9QCL
- Story Text: Anti-government protesters in Bangkok blockaded one of Asia's busiest airports for a fourth day on Saturday (November 29), as riot police hung back in hopes of a deal to end the latest escalation in a six-month old political crisis.
A day after their police chief was sacked for mishandling the protests, commanders on the ground said there were no immediate plans to evict the thousands of protesters at Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports by force.
In a televised address, Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said on Friday (November 28) the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) members barricaded at the airports were doing massive damage to the economy, but he would avoid violence to end the protests.
Somchai took a tougher line on his police chief, demoting General Patcharawat Wongsuwan to an inactive post on Friday after police failed to stop protesters from invading one of Asia's biggest airports.
While dozens of riot police with truncheons and shields kept watch on protesters at Suvarnabhumi, police at Don Muang airport ordered demonstrators there to leave immediately.
But they softened the edict by saying they hoped the situation would return to normal within three days.
"If the government is getting more serious about hurting people, more people will join us. The warning from the government is stimulating the feelings of the people against them. It's only a bad leader who could do such a thing," said protester Suwit Siriluangchanachai.
The PAD refuses to end the airport sit-ins, which have forced hundreds of flights to be canceled, stranding thousands of foreign tourists and grounded millions of dollars of air cargo.
"We cannot do anything else. Whatever will happen, let it happen so this can end," said protester Noppanan Pramote.
The PAD say they are ready for a prolonged siege. Their "security guards" armed with clubs, sticks and golf clubs have dug in behind a series of barricades of fire trucks, razor wire, car tyres and luggage trolleys.
Thailand's three-year-old political crisis has deepened dramatically since the unelected PAD began a "final battle" on Monday (November 24) to unseat Somchai, whom they accuse of being a pawn of former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, his brother-in-law.
Pressure is building on the army to oust the prime minister, as they did Thaksin in 2006, after Somchai rejected military calls to quit this week.
But army chief Anupong Paochinda has said he would not take over, arguing the military cannot heal fundamental political rifts between the Bangkok elite and middle classes who despise Thaksin, and the poor rural and urban majority who love him.
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