Keen to avoid a repeat of the Suvarnabhumi shutdown nightmare in December last year, Thai government officials moved quickly yesterday to secure major airports, sea ports, train stations and the Bangkok Sky Trains (BTS).
Panitan Wattanayagorn, spokesman for the embattled regime, said: “This is very normal, routine procedure during emergency.”
Police contingents are now guarding Suvarnabhumi, said its airport director Serirat Prasutanond, who reported that flight schedules were operating normally as of last night.
The week-long siege last December, led by government supporters clad in yellow shirts, resulted in a US$1.43 million loss of income for the facility and even more serious loss of face for Thailand. Much of its 700 daily flights were cancelled and the evacuation of tourists took place at U-Tapao military air base and airports in Chiangmai and Phuket.
For days since last week, red-shirted supporters of ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra have been blocking major thoroughfares and causing horrendous gridlocks. This left the Thai military with no choice but to step in yesterday and disperse the crowds massing around the Din Daeng and Victory Monument areas with force. A total of 113 people from both sides have been reported to have been injured in clashes throughout yesterday, and at least three were reportedly killed.
Meanwhile, foreign travel advisories have been piling up. Singapore and Malaysia, the first to warn their citizens against unnecessary travel to Thailand, have been joined by the US, UK, France, Australia, China, Russia, South Korea, the Philippines and Hongkong. Stephen Smith, Australian foreign minister, counselled Australians already in Bangkok “to stay within their homes or hotels and to certainly avoid large gatherings of people”.
The Japanese government instructed its nationals visiting Thailand to refrain from wearing yellow or red shirts.
Margie T Logarta