27 Nov 2008

Thai court orders protesters to end airport siege

7:22 am on 27 November 2008

A Thai court has ordered anti-government protesters to end a siege that has forced the closure of Bangkok's international airport.

The Bangkok Civil Court on Wednesday granted an injunction sought by the operator of Suvarnabhumi airport.

Earlier, in a national television address, Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said the cabinet will hold an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss "measures" against the protesters.

He refused to heed an call by the army to step down and call a snap election, saying his government was democratically elected and would continue to work for the good of the country.

Suvarnabhumi airport is a regional hub with about 125,000 passengers passing through it daily. Most airlines have halted services there.

It has been occupied by anti-government protesters since Tuesday.

The national carrier, Thai Airways, said it has diverted a number of inbound flights to Bangkok's old airport at Don Muang, 45km from Suvarnabhumi. Others have been diverted to a Vietnam War-era airbase 150km southeast of Bangkok.

There are no outbound flights.

New Zealand's ambassador in Thailand says most tourists have left the airport and are staying at hotels around Bangkok.

Around 3000 New Zealanders are thought to be in Thailand. They are being advised warned to avoid all political rallies.

Ambassador Brook Barrington says embassy personnel have visited the airport, which he says feels more like an airport shut by fog, than protest activity.


Thailand has been in a state of political stalemate since former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a military coup in 2006.

Fresh elections at the end of 2007 failed to resolve the crisis. Protesters from the People's Alliance for Democracy have been calling on the government to step down since May.

The PAD is a loose coalition comprising royalists, Bangkok's old elite and the middle class.

It accuses the government, which was elected in December, of being a corrupt puppet of exiled former premier Mr Thaksin, who is now in exile.

PAD protestors forced the cancellation of a parliamentary joint sitting on Monday.