Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thailand's trains come to a halt over political protests

Railway workers on Thursday began a sick-out to support the anti-government actions in Bangkok, and announced that all train service to the North and Northeast will halt at midnight on Friday, causing disruption to commuters and tourists.

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) union, in an announcement late on Thursday said employees "are not ready to work," a move that will cause severe problems for workers and foreign visitors, as well as movement of goods.

Latest reports say train services from Taphan Hin in Pichit would stop at 5am on Friday.

The chairman of the SRT’s labour union in Nakhon Ratchasima province, Sathorn Sinpru, said almost 100 engine drivers, usherettes and repairmen have taken sick leave for at least two days, reasoning that they are not happy with their work.

He said if they are still not ready to work after two days, the sick-out could prolong as their performance could cause dangers.

Members of the SRT’s labour union took part in the mass rally led by the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) at Government House. The reason behind the SRT’s halt of operation could be the government’s provision of free transport for the protesters who wish to return home.

As of Thursday evening, five scheduled trains from Bangkok to the Northeast failed to leave the station, deputy governor of the SRT Thawin Sarmnakorn said in a television interview.

Mr Thawin said he has ordered substitutes to replace the staff who have taken leave, but the number of the substitutes is inadequate for all the services to fully operate.

He added that he plans to hold talk with SRT staff on Friday to prevent the suspension of train services in other regions.

The discontinuation of rail services will first of all affect more than 1,000 Ayutthaya workers who depend on the train to get to work in Bangkok every morning.

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