2008. november 25., kedd

Protesters swarm Thai airport, takeoffs suspended

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Anti government protesters in front of the departure terminal at Suvarnabhumi airport, Bangkok in the early hours of Wednesday Nov. 26, 2008. Outbound flights at Suvarnabhumi International Airport were temporarily suspended at 9 p.m. Tuesday, authorities said, shortly before hundreds of demonstrators _ some masked and armed with metal rods _ broke through police lines and spilled into the passenger terminal. Airport manager Serirat Prasutanon said airport authorities had tried to negotiate with the protesters "but to no avail." "For the safety for passengers, we have to stop flights out of the airport temporarily until the situation returns to normal," he said in a statement, adding that incoming flights were still operating. The anti government protesters are demanding the resignation of Thailand's Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat. (AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn)

BANGKOK, Thailand — Protesters swarmed Thailand's main international airport Tuesday, forcing the cancellation of departing flights just hours after their comrades opened fire on government supporters in a clash on the streets of the capital.

It was the boldest move yet by the People's Alliance for Democracy in a monthslong campaign to topple Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, whom it accuses of being the puppet of a disgraced fugitive predecessor, billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra.

The protesters appeared intent on forcing the military to intervene and bring down the elected regime. Army commander Gen. Anupong Paochinda has repeatedly ruled out a coup, though he has also said the army "will keep peace and order to protect the public and uphold important institutions like the monarchy."

The alliance has staged a number of dramatic actions in recent months. It took over the prime minister's office in late August and twice blockaded Parliament _ one time setting off street battles with police that ended with two people dead and hundreds injured.

Tuesday's events saw for the first time the open use of guns by the alliance's so-called guards and the entanglement of foreigners _ the thousands of tourists trapped at the international airport.

At another airport, which serves domestic flights, thousands of alliance protesters surrounded the government's makeshift offices.

Support for the alliance has been waning in recent weeks, and the group appeared to be edging toward bigger confrontations _ involving fewer though more aggressive followers _ in hopes of creating chaos.

"Their goal is to prevent the government from functioning. They are getting increasingly desperate in their attempt to close the deal," said Thitinan Pongsidhirak, a political scientist at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University. "They had been losing steam and have so far failed to achieve their goal. Now, they are openly creating instability and provoking a military coup."


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