Anti-government demonstrators swarmed Bangkok’s international airport late Tuesday — halting departing flights — as opponents and supporters of Thailand’s government clashed in an escalation of the country’s long-running political crisis.
Outbound flights at Suvarnabhumi International Airport were temporarily suspended at 9 p.m., authorities said, shortly before hundreds of demonstrators — some masked and armed with metal rods — broke through police lines and spilled into the passenger terminal.
Airport manager Serirat Prasutanon said airport authorities had tried to negotiate with the protesters “but to no avail.” “For the safety for passengers, we have to stop flights out of the airport temporarily until the situation returns to normal,” he said in a statement, adding that incoming flights were still operating.
He said the governor of Samut Prakan province, where the airport is located, had asked the army to help police.
Using trucks and cars, demonstrators cut off highway access to the airport, the transportation hub for millions of tourists who visit the country each year.
The airport siege followed a clash earlier in the evening between opponents and supporters of Thailand’s government.
Protesters blocked a highway to Thailand's biggest airport on Tuesday and elsewhere opened fire on government supporters.
Footage aired by public broadcaster TPBS showed at least two security guards from the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) firing half a dozen rounds from handguns at opponents on a major road in north Bangkok.
At least 11 people were hurt, a city emergency services official said.
PM stays put
Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat rejected calls to resign and criticised protesters who are opposed to his elected government for leading a “rebellion”.