Stuck in Phuket

The fact that I'm posting this photo now is a bad. I'm supposed to be on a plane flying from Phuket to Bangkok, but the airports in Bangkok are closed due to political protests.

As best I can make out, political protestors (the PAD), who essentially want to keep Thaksin and his friends out of power, decided to blockade the new Bangkok airport in order to prevent the current Prime Minister (who is Thaksin's brother-in-law) from returning to the country after the APEC meeting. What this would achieve I'm not certain, but it has caused a considerable degree of confusion.

Realising at some stage that the old international airport in Bangkok was still a viable landing option, the protestors blocked that one too.

The Prime Minister eventually landed in Chiang Mai, which sort of screwed up the protestors' plans, but they're still blocking the airports, ostensibly in order to prevent other ministers from flying to/ from Chiang Mai to meet the PM.

Or something like that.

In any case, the main thing this seems to be accomplishing is hitting Thailand's economy smack in the middle of the peak tourism season. All flights are unable to land, whether domestic or international, just as peak season is supposed to go into high gear.

I've seen the effect in Phuket. There are certainly tourists here, since it's possible to fly directly into Phuket from international gateways, but there are fewer than there should be. Talking with dive operators, I've learned that trip, course and other queries are down significantly, so it looks like tough times ahead (as if the international financial meltdown weren't problem enough).

Before I left Bangkok, I snapped the photo below at the airport, which seems to capture both the confusion and antagonistic mood of the moment.


Note: I just learned that the Prince of Denmark is stuck in Thailand and can't leave too, so I guess I'm in good company.