Some updates on the situation here in Bangkok:
TIME: “Thailand’s Political Crisis Becomes a Global One”
With a demure smile and a garland of jasmine, Thailand has always welcomed the world. China and Japan may have screened themselves off for centuries, but the ancient kingdom of Siam, as Thailand was once known, thrived on trade and tourism. Even today, the country depends on visitors lured by golden spires and white-sand beaches.
But on Nov. 25, Thailand abandoned its traditional hospitality when antigovernment agitators swarmed Bangkok’s international airport, grounding one of Asia’s busiest air hubs. “Basically, we are hostages,” said Irish tourist Dermuid McAnoy, expressing almost as much frustration toward the protesters as toward airline staff, who seemed to melt away as soon as the crowds armed with bamboo sticks and iron bars appeared. “Yes, we can leave, but we have no place to go.”(See pictures from the Thai protests.)
Thailand’s airport takeover marked an ominous turning point in a months-long political battle that has morphed from sideshow farce to center-stage emergency. “When you close down the gateway to the country, then you have reached the point of a national crisis,” says Panitan Wattanayagorn, a national-security expert at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. “In fact, because this now affects Thailand’s connection to the wider world, it is becoming an international crisis.”
NYT/IHT: “Another Thai Airport Shut; General Asks Premier to Quit ”
Protesters forced the closing of Bangkok’s second airport on Thursday, severing the last remaining commercial air links to the Thai capital.
Until Wednesday, airlines were operating domestic flights out of Don Muang airport, Bangkok’s oldest airfield.
Officials are now considering using military airports in the area to accommodate flights diverted from Suvarnabhumi International Airport, which has been closed since Tuesday evening.
Passengers seeking to leave the country must now drive to other international airports in the country. One of them, Chiang Mai, is an eight-hour drive north of Bangkok, and another, Phuket, is nine hours to the south. All air cargo operations in Bangkok have also been suspended.
Newsweek: “Bangkok’s Bizarre Power Struggle ”
Many Thais believe that a 100-year-old bronze likeness of King Rama V located in downtown Bangkok emits powerful magic. That is why, fully a century after it was cast in Paris, the likeness has become the object of struggle between top government leaders and a band of rightists seeking to oust them. A few weeks ago, anti-government agitator Sondhi Limthongkul, whose People’s Alliance for Democracy has occupied key official buildings for four months in an effort to topple a government he considers illegitimate, accused his opponents of employing wizardry to channel the statue’s protective forces their way. And to reverse that alleged sorcery, he deployed his own mystics to encircle the statue with used sanitary napkins (collected from the PAD’s rank-and-file) to form a shield of menstrual blood.
It’s no secret that Thailand’s democracy is embattled. But what’s less well known is the extent to which its rival camps have fallen back on astrology and mysticism as they seek to best their political foes.
Economist: “Too much or too little? Thailand and the Philippines give Asian democracy a bad name”
Thailand’s three-year-old political crisis continued to rage this week, as the increasingly desperate anti-government movement, the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), made a last-ditch effort to provoke violence and force the army to stage another coup. It invaded Bangkok’s main airport, prompting the army chief to call on the government to dissolve parliament and for the PAD itself to cease its protests. The PAD’s thuggish tactics have lost it much of the support it once had among Bangkok’s middle classes. Only a fraction of the promised crowd of 100,000-plus materialised this week for its “final” push to overturn the government.