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Thailand protestors lift airport siege

world Updated: Dec 03, 2008 22:47 IST
David Fox
David Fox
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Anti-government protestors lifted their crippling, eight-day blockade of Thailand’s main airport on Wednesday, raising the hopes of 230,000 stranded tourists even though there is no end in sight to the wider political crisis.

The central bank slashed interest rates by a shock 100 basis points to 2.75 per cent, reflecting the impact of the siege on a tourism- and export-dependent economy already feeling the effects of global slowdown.

A Thai Airways domestic flight landed at 0715 GMT and several international flights were scheduled to leave soon after, although it was unclear when full operations would resume.

Still cheering Tuesday’s sacking of the government by the courts, thousands of yellow-shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) activists made way for an army of cleaners at the $4 billion Suvarnabhumi terminal, one of the world’s biggest.

“I have strong confidence that everything will be OK and will be back to normal in two days,” airport general manager Serirat Prasutanond told Reuters as PAD officials swept up debris left by their sit-in, the latest stunt in a six-month campaign.

Whatever the final opening date, Thailand looks set to remain politically riven and chaotic for much longer.

Dissolution of the ruling People Power Party (PPP) will heal none of the basic rifts between Bangkok’s royalist elite and middle classes, who despise ousted and exiled leader Thaksin Shinawatra, and the urban poor and rural masses who love him and continue to vote his allies into office.

“Thailand remains locked in this structurally flawed system for the foreseeable future,” said IHS Global Insight analyst Kristina Azmi. “The risk of civil unrest is growing and with it the accompanying risk of military intervention.”

The PAD, led by a group of royalist businessmen, academics and activists, formally marked the end of the occupation by singing the king’s anthem. Ominously, the PAD protestors vow to return if they see Thaksin allies getting near power again.