Thailand’s airport blockade is over. On hearing the announcment of Tuesday December 2nd, collective sighs of relief rang out from stranded travelers all over the country. Tourism agencies and hotels were wiping their brows and counting the cost of their nightmare last few days.
PAD Protests Come to an End
The week-long siege of Bangkok’s Survarnabhumi and Don Muang airports by PAD protestors will officially come to an end at 10am on Wednesday December 3rd, allowing passenger flights to resume as soon as operationally possible. The Nation newspaper was one of the first to break the news, on its website.
Ending of the Siege Before HM King’s Birthday
On December 2nd, Thailand’s constitutional court announced the disbanding of the current government and coalition parties. The court’s verdict is what the PAD protestors were praying for. The fact that the airport siege will be over before His Majesty the King’s birthday on Friday December 5th, a national holiday in Thailand, is the birthday present that many were hoping for.
Passenger Flights Expected to Resume on December 4th
The siege may be over but Thailand’s political woes are far from at an end. For now, though, tens of thousands of stranded tourists will be savoring at the prospect of shortly being able to sleep in their own bed.
It will take a few days to get Bangkok’s international airport fully operation and for the stock-pile of flights to be cleared. Cargo flights resumed within hours of the December 2nd announcement, but passenger flights will not commence until the Airports Authority of Thailand, in conjunction with PAD leaders work together to ensure readiness. Computer and airport security systems need to be fully checked.
In the BBC World News, “Thai Protests Called Off,” of December 2nd, their correspondent Quentin Summerville, one of the first journalists to be broadcasting from inside Survarnabhumi, reported that “passenger flights were expected to commence again on Thursday December 4th.” although some domestic flights may resume as early as wednesday.
The Ending of the Thai Airport Blockade
The Thai Constitutional Court ordered the ruling government party – the People Power Party (PPP) and 2 coalition members to disband; having found them guilty of vote buying in the general election of 2007. This included Thailand’s Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat who has been barred from politics for 5 years, along with the leaders of the other coalition parties.
On hearing the news the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) made the decision to cease all protests and free up the airport blockades which had brought much of the country’s flow of tourists in and out of Thailand to its knees.
What is the Price Thailand Will Pay?
Bangkok’s main airport, Survarnabhumi, has lost more than Bt 350 million, according to the Nation newpaper. It is breaking news of December 2nd, 2008 “Cargo planes resume services at Survarnabhumi,” it quotes Acting President Serirat Prasutanond of Airports of Thailand as saying, “The protest has caused grave damage to the country and we’re trying every means to clear the airport.”
In addition to the much publicized negative impact on tourism, the closure of Bangkok’s airports placed a stranglehold on the Thai economy. Sixty percent of Thailand’s economy relies on exports and container loads of fresh fruit, flowers and seafood remained untouched in the deserted airport cargo areas.
The question on the Thailand tourism industry’s lips is how much damage has been caused. Given the unstable political situation and recent airport closures, will many tourists still want to come here? In its news broadcasts on Sunday November 30th, the BBC’s Quentin Somerville voiced the possibility that “6 million fewer tourists are likely to come to Thailand next year.” The knock-on effect within the country of a substancial drop tourist numbers would be around a million jobs lost, according to the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI).
However, Thailand-savvy travelers will use the current climate to their advantage. With its exotic culture, beautiful beaches and tropical setting Thailand still remains one the most value-for-money tourist destinations in the world. Thailand’s Department of Tourism will be working hard to mend fences and woo tourists back to the “Land of Smiles.”