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Page last updated at 02:27 GMT, Thursday, 27 November 2008

Thai protests shut second airport

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The demonstration at Bangkok's main airport, Suvarnabhumi

Anti-government protesters in Thailand have forced the closure of the second airport in Bangkok, Don Mueang.

The airport was closed after opposition supporters blocked the terminal, in an apparent attempt to stop officials flying to meet PM Somchai Wongsawat.

Mr Somchai is in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, because he was unable to land in Bangkok after a trip to Peru.

Protesters have been occupying the international airport amid an escalating political crisis.

On Wednesday Mr Somchai rejected a call by army leader Gen Anupong Paochinda for new elections to end the political deadlock.

The prime minister says his government is legitimate and that he will continue to work for the country.

Thailand has been in a state of political stalemate since former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a military coup in 2006.

POLITICAL TURMOIL
September 2006: Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ousted in military coup
February 2008: Samak Sundaravej sworn in as prime minister
September 2008: Protesters call for Mr Samak's resignation, saying he is a proxy for Thaksin
9 September 2008: Mr Samak dismissed for violating conflict of interest law. Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin's brother-in-law, becomes prime minister.
October 2008: Thaksin given a two-year jail sentence for corruption in his absence

Fresh elections at the end of 2007 failed to resolve the crisis, when a party made up of former allies of Mr Thaksin returned to power.

Gen Anupong's call on Wednesday for an election heightened speculation that another military coup could be imminent.

But the army chief denied that was his plan, saying the government still had "full authority".

A Thai court, meanwhile, has ordered the protesters occupying the city's main airport, Suvarnabhumi, to leave.

But the group - who belong to the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) - say they will stay until the government resigns.

They have brought in food and blankets and appear set for a long stay.

All flights have been cancelled and thousands of Thais and foreign tourists are stranded in the Thai capital.

Frustrated passengers have been sent to hotels until the airport, one of Asia's busiest, can reopen.

The blockade comes at the height of the tourist season and threatens an industry which is one of the country's biggest earners.

The campaign by the PAD, which began in earnest in May, has paralysed the Thai government.

The group - a loose alliance of royalists, businessmen and the urban middle class - claim that the government is corrupt and hostile to the monarchy.

They also accuse it of being a proxy for Mr Thaksin, who remains very popular among Thailand's rural poor.

BANGKOK AIRPORT CLOSED
Graphic
Thousands of PAD protesters storm the airport

Protesters seize the air traffic control tower and airport closed

At least 3,000 passengers stranded for 16 hours in terminal building

Latest reports say terminal building has been evacuated




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