Friday, September 26, 2008

Thailand's PAD party to close airports

Supporters of the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) said on Friday they will close five airports in the South to try to stop a visit by new Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat to his home town.

The five airports are Hat Yai, Krabi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat Thani and Phuket. PAD said they will close all of them with human barricades to prevent a visit by Mr Somchai scheduled for Saturday.

Mr Somchai planned to visit his hometown in Surat Thani province to celebrate being named prime minister. He was scheduled to land at Surat Thani on Saturday, but he may try to use another airport in the region because of the militant actions of the anti-government group.

Sunthorn Rakwong, core leader of PAD group in the South, said the move is to show Mr Somchai he is not welcome in the South because he is a nominee of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, the premier's brother in law.

Mr Sunthorn said the PAD members would gather at the five airports on Friday to "begin operations". He said protesters would remain peaceful, and vowed to avoid violent or aggressive measures.

If the premier manages to land in the South, PAD members will follow wherever he goes to pressure him to leave the region and go back to Bangkok, Mr Sunthorn threatened.

On Thursday, a group of PAD supporters in Nakhon Si Thammarat blocked House Speaker Chai Chidchob from attending a scheduled seminar on "The House Meets People" held in the southern province, forcing Mr Chai to leave for Bangkok on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, PAD core leader Chamlong Srimuang said provincial members of PAD can do what they believe it is suitable, and claimed that any such action had nothing to do with the central PAD.

Maj Gen Chamlong also said the group welcomes the opportunity to negotiate with newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh if he actually serves as a mediator between the government and PAD. Gen Chavalit is a senior, national figure who served in top posts including army commander and prime minister, he said.

However, another PAD core leader Pibhop Tongchai cast doubts on that promise. He said he has doubts about the real intention behind Gen Chavalit's appointment as a mediator.

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