Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat tonight refused to step down saying ‘I have done nothing wrong’ and left it to police to deal with the yellow shirted protesters who have seized the country’s international airport.
Shortly after his return to Thailand from Peru to be greeted by red-shirted pro-government supporters in the northern capital of Chiang Mai, he immediately declined an invitation to resign made earlier in the day by Thai army chief General Anupong Paochinda.
His dry-mouthed 20 minute speech, which included a list of good things his government had done for the country, did little to allay fears that the long running dispute, involving thousands of tourists, would deteriorate rapidly.
And it immediately spelt bad news for thousands of tourists, soon to become tens of thousands, trapped in the country, on the closure of the world’s 18th busiest airport and at the beginning of the country’s tourism peak.
Among those trapped are hundreds of Britons, who are now being housed in hotels in Bangkok and on Thailand’s eastern seaboard. This number could rocket by a 1000 a day.
And last night there were real fears that a violent clash was imminent.
Earlier in the day General Anuporn Paochinda announced at a press conference that that best course of action to solve the dispute would be for the government to dissolve parliament and call new elections. Demonstrators of the PAD (People’s Alliance for Democracy) should also relinquish their control of Bangkok International Airport , he said. ‘I do not want to put pressure on the government,’ he added.
Last night at Suvarnabhumi airport yellow shirted anti-government protesters jeered the speech by, the brother-in-law of ousted Prime Thaksin Shinawatra, and looked to all purposes as if they had dug in for a fight to the end.
A police operation to move thousands of them from the country’s new showcase international airport could cost millions of dollars and cause massive collateral damage.
After a night and day in which four bombs were set off , then tourists witnessed running fights at the airport, while outside anti-government shot at supporters of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand’s army chief General Anupong presented a possible solution which had been decided by an army monitoring panel, the General said.
Just hours before the General’s pronouncement, some 3,000 tourists trapped inside Suvarnabhumi airport were evacuated and taken on buses to hotels in Bangkok and the surrounding area, but some as far away as the resort of Pattaya 100 miles away. They were not told in advance where they were being taken, but assured that they would be found rooms.
Then the Airports Authority of Thailand began evacuating their own staff. Currently thousands of supporters of the People’s Alliance for Democracy are staying put and several tons of water and foodstuffs has been brought in.
Early yesterday several flights managed to land and take off from Suvarnabhumi before the airport was completely closed at 4.am. One of those was the British Airways Sydney-London flight, which had been diverted to Singapore.
On that flight was Geraldine an Investment Consultant from London who said: ‘I was amazed. People played down the troubles so much that all I expected was a couple of old men waving a stick. It was a shock to arrive to see thousands upon thousands of demonstrators.’
No sooner had the British Airways flight departed than bombs went off in several places, one outside Suvarnabhumi airport, one outside the former international airport at Don Muang, where the Thai Cabinet has been meeting since being ousted from Government House, and two in Bangkok city.