up date on a-maze-in thailand, downer for tourism

Probably within half an hour of that last post things started to heat up. There have been shoot outs on the streets outside the protest areas between gangs, and the expressway to Suvarnabhumi airport is overrun with PAD and some opposing gangs. A taxi driver has been shot, but no one knows by whom. Thai TV is showing images of PAD supporters having taken over two floors of the new airport. Meanwhile PM Somchai is still in Peru as his plane seems to be suffering from ‘a technical problem’. Maybe both sides are feeling that this has to be the decisive moment? So last night the PAd overran the airport terminal, all flights were cancelled, thousands of tourists who had checked in and passed immigration are stranded at the airport, and a few thousand more who hadn’t checked in have tried to get back to town. Monica’s cousin Poum was at the airport trying to leave for Paris when the crowd broke in, she described in real time how the Thai airways ground staff simply took off (other airlines apparently held out longer!!), food outlets closed, and total chaos reigned. So travellers were literally left to their own devices. Thai tv showed tourists walking through traffic on the expressway. 26112008004.jpgTourism industry operators are in despair: not what they needed on top of the global economic downturn. The minister of tourism has been up allnight at the airport, and can only think about damage control – good luck. Perhaps the more optimistic elements of the tourist industry are projecting flat growth. They could be right if central issues (read government resigning) are resolved quickly. But both parties are stubborn, and CNN images of Thais shooting each other on the streets don’t help the country’s image much.

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