Tourism Suffers as Defiant Protesters Occupied Airports
Tourism in Thailand is a booming industry until a few days ago when anti-government protesters occupied two major airports. The forced occupation by the militant protesters leaves thousands of passengers stranded for the last three days and damaging the country’s image as major tourist destination.
The militant protesters are demanding the resignation of the current Thailand Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat. Somchai is the brother-in-law of the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who is presently in exile and rumored to be staying in China. The militant group accused Somchai of being a puppet of Thaksin. They also accused Thaksin and his allies of corruption and abuse of power.
Upon his return from the APEC meeting in South America, Somchai declared a state of emergency at the airports authorizing police to take back the terminals from the militant protesters. Sensing that the police and military may not carryout the order, the government opted not to use force and just negotiate with the protesters.
Nattawut Sai-Kau said that the police have been instructed to get the protesters out of the airports as soon as possible and were instructed to avoid violence. “Firstly, the police should open negotiation with the protesters. If they refuse to go, police should do whatever is necessary to open the airports on the basis of non-violence” he added.
The government’s option of not using force on the militant protesters, raised doubts about the support of the army in a situation where force is the only option left for the government to exercise. The Army Chief remained neutral so far in the current political turmoil and has even encouraged Somchai to call for new election.
The standoff that gathered momentum about three months ago when protesters took the prime minister’s office have paralyzed the government and brought the stock market down. If the situation remains unresolved and prolonged, it will kill the tourism industry and bring Thailand’s economy in shambles.
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