Tag Archives: bangkok_airport

‘Bangkok Airport’ — Trailer for New Show Coming to BBC Three

Given my many previous posts about Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point this out.

Embedded above and on YouTube here: A trailer for “Bangkok Airport,” a series of six hour-long shows about the facility and the people who work there and pass through it.

It looks…quite entertaining.

Thailand Uber-blogger Richard Barrow has more, and says the show begins Jan. 22.

Additional details from a BBC press release:

Bangkok Airport (w/t) – 6 x 60 minutes

Bangkok airport, the gateway to South-East Asia, is a thriving, bustling hub of excitement and anticipation, of pale arrivals to tanned departures and everything in between. BBC Three has gained unparalleled access to all aspects of the airport in this thrilling six-part series which sees young Brits passing through to embark on adventures of a lifetime. Each episode follows some of the thousands of youth British travellers checking in and checking out, run-ins with the tourist police, incidents in immigration, customs, treatment at the on-site medical centre, missed flights, expired passports and emergencies abroad. The action takes place inside and occasionally outside the airport – at island trouble spots and the British Embassy in downtown Bangkok. And in a unique twist, contributors’ UGC (user generated content) will be used alongside fly-on-the-wall docusoap content. Bangkok Airport is made by Keo Films. It is series produced by Fiona Inskip and executive produced by Paula Trafford. BBC commissioning editor is Sam Bickley.

Red shirts to rally at Bangkok’s international airport?

Bloomberg yesterday: Pro-Thaksin Group Considers Bangkok Airport Protest:

Supporters of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra are considering staging a protest at Bangkok’s international airport, the scene of a 2008 blockade that helped topple the government.

“We are working the pros and cons and we will finalize this in a meeting later” this week, Sean Boonpracong, a spokesman for the group, said by phone in Bangkok today. The protests “will not be like” those organized by an anti-Thaksin group that closed Bangkok’s airports for eight days and helped push the country into recession, he said.

“We will not disrupt, we will not seize, we will not be anywhere near” the terminal building at Suvarnabhumi airport, he said. “It could be at the entrance to the airport.”

The Bangkok Post today: Planned airport rally sparks alarm

Business leaders and analysts offered dire warnings yesterday about the economic impact if airport operations are once again held hostage to Thailand’s ongoing political soap opera.

Thai stocks fell 1.39% yesterday amid reports that red-shirted supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra could rally at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Spokesmen for the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, a group led by pro-Thaksin supporters, insist that the rally, tentatively planned for next week, would not disrupt airport operations or interfere with passengers.

But concern spread quickly that the rally could turn into a repeat of November and December 2008, when Suvarnabhumi Airport was closed for eight days by the yellow-shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy, which forced the resignation of the government led by the People Power Party, the successor to Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai.

And another story from today’s Bangkok Post: UDD prepares airport rally but no blockade

The anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship is planning to stage a rally on the main road leading to Suvarnabhumi airport next week.

One of the group’s core leaders, Natthawut Saikua, yesterday said the rally was intended to press for progress in the prosecution of the UDD’s political rivals, the People’s Alliance for Democracy, for its extended blockade of the airport in late 2008.

Mr Natthawut said the protest would be peaceful. The group would not lay siege to the terminal and they would not block off the airport’s entrances.

(Emphasis mine.)

Two stories: Red shirts to protest, and Thai Airways sues the PAD

Two stories from Bangkok today that I wanted to point out:

  • Anti-government red shirt protesters will gather today at Bangkok’s Democracy monument for a demonstration between noon and midnight. Ousted PM Thaksin is expected to speak via video-link at 7 p.m. This story from Bloomberg has more info.
  • Thai Airways has sued the PAD — including Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya — for shutting down Bangkok’s airports just over a year ago. The airline wants $17 million for lost revenue. AFP has more.

Authorities to revamp Bangkok’s airport

I wanted to point out, quickly, this intriguing AP story from Monday about a plan to revamp Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi International airport:

Baggage handlers at Thailand’s main airport now wear uniforms with pockets sewn shut to prevent pilfering. Police are hauling away illegal taxi touts. And cushions are being added to metal seats at departure gates derided as a “pain in the rear.”

An overhaul is under way at Bangkok’s $3.8 billion Suvarnabhumi Airport, which is virtually brand new but trying to put a scandal-plagued past behind and become one of the world’s top 10 airports — a goal senior officials concede might be a long shot for this year.

The campaign is partly aimed at addressing passenger complaints logged since Suvarnabhumi opened in 2006.

Free Wi-Fi will be in place by the end of the month and 126 Internet terminals have been installed for travelers without laptops, according to Airports of Thailand, the airport’s operator. Other upgrades include more restrooms, improved signs and the upholstery of all 19,000 cold metallic seats with turquoise, peach, green and purple cushions that brighten Suvarnabhumi’s concrete-and-steel design, panned by some critics as too monotone.

(Emphasis mine.)

For reference, here’s some context regarding past problems with the airport.

Bangkok airport to reopen

Here’s the latest news from Bangkok:

— Yesterday (Tues.) a court ruled that Thailand’s governing party must disband. The prime minister has now been forced from office. (Demonstrators had said they wouldn’t leave the airport until the PM quits.)

— Anti-government protesters announced yesterday that they’ll cease their protests at the international airport today (Wed.). (Demonstrations at the domestic airport, Don Mueang, continue.)

— Local media reports says flights will resume at Bangkok’s international airport as early as today, though it’s unclear when normal operations will resume. Some 300,000 foreign travelers are still stranded here.

Following are some media reports with more info:

Nation: “THAI resumes flights at Suvarnabhumi

Thai Airways International is flying six special flights from Suvarnabhumi on Wednesday, the first since the airport was shut down on November 25.

AP: “Thai airports reopening after PM ousted by court

Victorious anti-government protesters lifted their siege of Bangkok’s two airports Wednesday while leaders of the ousted government named a caretaker prime minister to lead the politically chaotic kingdom.

The country’s immediate crisis, which virtually severed Thailand’s air links to the outside world for a week, appeared to be over and the People’s Alliance for Democracy said it was ending six months of daily anti-government protests. But the alliance warned it would be on the streets again if a new government tried to return to its past policies.

“The partial opening can be as soon as today,” said Serirat Prasutanond, acting president for Airports of Thailand Pcl, the operator. “It will likely be outbound flights from Thai Airways because they have aircraft parked here.”

Nation: “Suvarnabhumi to reopen in 1-2 weeks

Airports of Thailand Plc expects to reopen Suvarnabhumi Airport in 1 week at the earliest and 2 weeks at the latest, said the company’s acting president Serirat Prasutanond.

Other stories:

AFP: “Well-heeled tourists flee Thailand on private jets

As most grumbling holiday-makers wait frustrated in hotels after airport-based protests stranded them in Thailand, the wealthy are simply slipping out of the “Land of Smiles” by private jets.

Charter airline companies are seeing their bookings soar despite the enormous cost, after demonstrators seized Bangkok’s main Suvarnabhumi international airport and the smaller domestic hub Don Mueang last week.

Protesters began clearing out of the airport on Wednesday after the premier was forced from office by a court, but it will take weeks to clear the backlog of an estimated 350,000 people who missed flights.

For some perspective on what the protests mean for Thailand’s future, check out this WSJ story:

Thailand Protests End as Prime Minister Is Ousted

Antigovernment protesters promised to end a crippling weeklong siege of Thailand’s main airports after a court ruling forced Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat to step down and disbanded his government’s key parties for electoral fraud.

The pledge to lift the airport blockades comes as a relief for the more than 300,000 desperate international travelers stranded in Thailand, which has suffered severe damage to its economy and its reputation as a global tourist destination.

But the political stalemate that has paralyzed the Southeast Asian country of 65 million for months is no closer to resolution — a troubling omen for it as well as some other developing countries around the world.

Thailand’s fundamental problem — mirrored to differing degrees in China, India and other emerging economies — is a seemingly unbridgeable divide between relatively well-off urbanites, including many of the protesters at Bangkok’s airports, and millions of poorer rural citizens who have long felt left out of the country’s power structure.

And this Economist story includes some details on the political landscape and what may come next:

Ousting the prime minister“:

In the end it was Thailand’s Constitutional Court that sent the prime minister packing. Somchai Wongsawat resigned on Tuesday December 2nd after his party and two others were dissolved for electoral fraud. But the noose around his neck was the week-long seizure of Bangkok’s two airports by opposition protesters, who have plunged the capital into chaos and sown fear of wider unrest. They may leave now, allowing Bangkok’s airport to resume flights in time for a busy tourist season, and to start clearing a backlog of over 300,000 stranded foreign tourists. But the political upheaval is not over, and damage to Thailand’s battered economy and international reputation may well continue.

(All emphasis mine.)

For ongoing news, check out:
The Nation
The Bangkok Post
Bangkok Pundit
2Bangkok

And finally, newley.com has been receiving a lot of traffic over the last week as folks search for updates on the airport closure. A reminder: if you’d like to receive updates when I post here, you can subscribe to my RSS feed. In addition, I’ve been posting shorter snippets on Twitter here.

Bangkok airport closure: Friday update

Here are the latest developments from Bangkok:

— Anti-government protesters continue to occupy Bangkok’s international airport. They have now also forced the closure of Bangkok’s domestic airport.

Thousands of passengers are still stranded here in the city, though they’ve been moved from the airport to various hotels. (Some tourists have reportedly been able to leave Thailand by traveling over-land from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where the airport has a wide range of international flights.)

— Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat has declared a state of emergency, which would allow the government to dislodge protesters from the airports. However, the government seems reluctant to clear out the demonstrators for fear of bloody clashes.

— Rumors were flying here in Bangkok last night that there would be a military coup. That hasn’t happened. But the possibility cannot be dismissed.

Following are links to media coverage:

Reuters: “Q+A-Thailand’s intractable political crisis

A snip:

HOW DOES AIRPORT SIEGE HELP PAD’S CAUSE?

The chaos is costing the PAD public support, especially as tourism, which employs 1.8 million people, will suffer badly.

But its ultimate goal is to make Bangkok ungovernable and trigger a putsch against a government they say is a pawn of ousted and exiled leader Thaksin Shinawatra.

Under an interim military government, the PAD would then have more chance of advancing its “new politics” agenda to ensure a parliament stuffed with appointed grandees.

Some of the PAD’s plans are codenamed “Hiroshima” and “Nagasaki”, and their ideologues have been quoted on the need for political assassinations.

BBC: “Thailand teeters on the brink

The occupation of Thailand’s main international airport is the boldest and riskiest move yet by the People’s Alliance for Democracy, after a string of similar stunts over the past four months.

It has certainly done immense damage to the vital tourist industry, and even many sympathetic Thais will feel that this militant, anti-government movement has gone too far in its quest to unseat the government.

But could this be the shock that finally breaks the deadlock which has paralyzed the country for most of this year?

It has certainly shocked army commander Anupong Paochinda into playing a hand that, while even-handed on the surface – it calls for both new elections and for a PAD withdrawal – is being viewed by many in the government camp as little short of a silent coup.

The reason is complex, but such is the mistrust among different factions in Thailand now they tend to assume the worst of each other.

WSJ: “Thai Protesters Overtake Second Bangkok Airport

Antigovernment protesters swarmed Bangkok’s second major airport and Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat declared a state of emergency at both facilities as a monthslong political crisis appeared headed for a climax.

The developments — coming a day after thousands of protesters took over the country’s main international airport — intensified speculation Thailand could be heading for another military coup.

Late Thursday, there was also some conjecture that Mr. Somchai, who said protesters were “holding the country hostage,” might order Thailand’s police — and possibly not the army — to clear them from the airport terminals. The emergency declaration allows him to prohibit gatherings.

In a nationally televised address, Mr. Somchai said “I do not have any intention to hurt any members of the public,” though it wasn’t clear how demonstrators who have vowed to stay put until Mr. Somchai quits could be removed without force. The premier said the navy and air force will assist police in clearing the airports.

A government spokesman later said police had been instructed to remove the protesters “as soon as possible” but in “a peaceful manner,” according to the Associated Press. The same spokesman urged the country’s army units to stay in their barracks.

IHT/NYT: “Thai Chief Permits Evicting Protesters

Snip from the end of the story:

…The seizure of Bangkok’s airports is radical even by the standards of Thailand’s tempestuous political past.

Despite frequent military coups and changes of government in past decades, the day-to-day operation of Thailand’s bureaucracy had been largely unaffected until now. The airports functioned with little interruption during a military coup in 2006, and, unlike many of its neighbors, Thailand has maintained reliable service in crucial areas like electricity and health care despite political turmoil.

But with the closing of the airports and the occupation of the prime minister’s office since August, politics is now directly interfering with many facets of life in Thailand. The airport disruption alone has caused havoc in Thailand’s tourism industry and disrupted Southeast Asian commerce.

“The protesters have basically closed down the country,” said Ruth Banomyong, an associate professor at Thammasat Business School, Thammasat University, who is one of the region’s leading specialists in logistics.

“Thailand was never considered as a very risky country,” he said. “I don’t think companies would have prepared for this.”

The Nation: “Capital increasingly tense as coup rumours spread

The situation in the capital was extremely tense yesterday as coup rumours prompted reaction from anti-government protesters and their rivals. Both camps mobilised their supporters for street fighting, while government and business offices suggested their staff get out early.

Newspaper offices were flooded with phone calls inquiring or giving “tips” about an imminent coup. A source claimed Army chief Anupong Paochinda had a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat to exchange ultimatums.

For ongoing links to news coverage, check out:
— Bangkok Pundit (the post Coup speculation: Live Blog may be of interest)
The Nation Newspaper
Bangkok Post newspaper
2Bangkok

Bangkok airport closure: more news and analysis

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.

(Emphasis mine.)