Almost 10,000 opposition protestors have set up camp in Bangkok airport, blocking all flights and confining thousands of tourists to the world's biggest squat.
The crisis in Bangkok is worsening. For two years conflict has been heightening between supporters and opponents of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, exiled since 2006. The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) demands the incarceration of the former head of government and his deputies, who returned to power in December 2007, and of which one is current Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat. So far, one person has been killed in the recent conflict.
The director of Suvarnabhumi International Airport estimates 50 million baht (around €1.5m) of losses. The cancellation of 700 flights will have harsh effects on an economy based on tourism, and one which is already flailing. Our Observers give their account of events.
Posted on YouTube by yokam1, 26 November.
PAD activists storm Bangkok's international airport.
"It shouldn't turn into gang warfare."
Jean-Yves Fargeat is an IT programmer who lives in Bangkok.
"At the start I sympathised with the movement but these things have their limits. The PAD is attacking something essential to Thailand. That said, they can't stay there forever. The head of the army, who sympathises with the PAD, has now given an ultimatum to the protestors.
If the PAD manages to get the parliament dissolved, I think they'll go. They don't want to stay a week, like they did outside the government house. The airport is too important for the country. And in any case their support is diminishing. Taxi drivers for example are openly opposed to the blockade. The airport is where they make most money. The PAD hasn't succeeded in getting the population to rise up with them.
There has been some violence. Particularly when the PAD left their encampments in the town centre. The pro-government supporters took the chance to set off artisanal bombs. They seem to have been individual acts. But it's true that it's the most radical that carry on demonstrating, and there are a lot of firearms here. It shouldn't turn into gang warfare.
It's not all chaos. It's like the attacks in the suburbs: from abroad, you only have access to some footage. But life goes on as normal here. I went to work this morning, near the government house, without any problems."
"We have no choice; attacking the airport is the only way to put pressure on"
Sirima is a PAD activist. She's been involved in the protests since they began several months ago. She's currently demonstrating at the airport.
"We came to the airport yesterday, and we'll stay as long as we have to. It's depends on what happens. We're not demanding that Parliament be dissolved; we just want Thaksin Shinawatra and Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat to go to jail. They're murderers and corrupt. People are saying that we're firing shots, but it's not true, it's a trick by the government to say that we're responsible for the violence. We are non-violent protestors.
We have no choice; attacking the airport is the only way to put pressure on. For us, it symbolises what they've built. The airport is corrupt. It must go back to the Thai people, that's why we've seized it. The only flight we let go was for the Haj Muslim pilgrimage, because we sympathise with them for religious reasons.
The unionists at the airport support us and the tourists too. Some are worried about getting their home, but most are joining in with us. We eat together; we share our food with them. Those from Europe, especially France, are used to protests, so they're not phased by it."
Trapped tourists keep smiling
Sunny is an IT programmer. He has been living in Bangkok for 20 years. He posted these photos of the airport on his blog.
Many stranded passengers, having missed out on their in-flight entertainment, are seen holding hand clappers and smiling as the PAD protesters distribute food and snacks to them. They're even wearing the yellow Ku-chart head bands. Looks like PAD's popularity at the airport is soaring!"