Thai Army Chief Urges PM to step down


+++ BREAKING NEWS INSERT (BY EDITOR, NOT JOHN WALSH) +++

Here’s some footage from the CNN on the occupation of Suvarnabhumi airport and the current situation. (there’s a short advertisement in front, after that the footage starts).

What does that mean for Thailand’s tourism industry?

Kongkrit Hiranyakit, head of the Tourism Council of Thailand, told The Associated Press that the bombings, at the height of the high season which runs from late October to February, could cut income from tourism to half the expected 240 billion baht ($6.8 billion).

(Source: CNN.com)

Also, you might want to read what AlJazeera has to say about the current crisis

I have a group of European friends visiting Thailand for the new year. Today 3 of them have called me already and I got emails from 2 others and expect more soon – they are all concerned whether it’s safe to visit Thailand, and I’m sure there are many other people all over the world who are even more scared.

If these protesters really love Thailand, then they should sacrifyce their own agenda for the better of Thailand, and not the other way around…

Here’s an excerpt from India Times on what happened at Suvarnabhumi from the travelers’ perspective:

airport director Saereerat Prasutanont saying 3,000 passengers had been stranded and 402 flights cancelled.

Angry, tired and hungry passengers had earlier began leaving Suvarnabhumi on buses provided by airport authorities, after many spent the night sleeping on baggage carousels and at check-in desks.

They complained that they had had nothing to eat or drink since the protesters burst into the two-year-old terminal late Tuesday, and that no one was giving them information about what was going on.

“It was very unclear. Thai Airways staff said we need to vacate the airport, go get your bags and get out,” said traveller Andrea Neil from Australia.

A meeting between Thailand’s military and business leaders gives some hope that the protests might end soon, so Thai stocks rebound a bit after decline when the Airport was shut down.

However, the outcome of that meeting was:

Thailands army chief General Anupong Paojinda stepped in urged prime minster Somchai Wongsawat to step down and hold new elections..

“We will send him a letter to inform that he must dissolve the house and call new elections,” the general told a news conference after an urgent meeting of military and business leaders to address the deepening crisis.

“This is not a coup,” he said. “The government still has full authority. These points are the way to solve the problem which has plunged the country into a deep crisis.”

“As army chief, if I launch a coup the problems would be solved once and for all. But there would be a lot of consequences including the international reaction.”

Well, a coup might solve the problem of the airport being occupied and protesters on the street – but it wouldn’t solve any of Thailands political and structural problems as far as I can tell.

Thai PM, who just landed in Thailand at Chiang Mai airport, declined to comment on the Army Chief’s “suggestion”.

More Violence


The sky outside is pitch dark, lit only by the piercing lightning which seems to be coming down directly behind the BOI building, from where I am sitting. While most people would be happy enough just to get home in a reasonable time without getting soaked (I fear it is already too late for me), others are planning to rack up the violence. We have already had a couple of bombs today and at least one death. There may be more confrontations tonight.

The usual people have started to throw around the usual accusations but it is a little soon to tell what has really been happening. Still, to fool the most people, tell the biggest lie.

The PM has been consulting with police chiefs and has said that the latter should get on with investigating what has been going on and arresting the perpetrators. I am sure they would be more than happy to do so but will fear that they are going to be caught in the middle of whatever kicks off over the next few days – we have already seen how willing the PAD mob is to try to murder police officers, with guns, iron spears and even by repeatedly running over them with vehicles. The red side, UDD, has found itself (rather surprisingly) allied with the police because of PAD violence but, were I a copper, I would not like to test how deep that allegiance would be when push comes to shove.

And so, once more, we approach a weekend with violence in the air and the threat of a military coup casting a pall over the lives of honest, hard-working Thai people.

Meanwhile, a bomb in Yala has wounded nine people, three of them critically. I had thought (and wrote) that the government was not doing anything to solve the Southern insurgency problem but, following the PM’s recent visit, it has been pointed out that the level of violence has actually declined significantly over recent months – I had noticed there were fewer stories to post but did not make the connection properly. So, some slow and small progress is being made, quietly, which seems to be the PM’s way.