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Thai protesters say no plan to shut airports
The demonstrators, who are seeking to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and curb her billionaire family’s political dominance, say they will occupy Bangkok from Jan. 13.
“Operation Occupy Bangkok does NOT involve airport closures or the disruption of any mass transport services. Public buses, trains, BTS sky-trains, MRT underground trains, and public boats will operate normally,” the protest movement said on its English-language Facebook page.
The demonstrators have vowed to set up protest stages around the capital, prevent government officials from going to work and to cut off power and water to government offices as well as to the residences of the prime minister and her Cabinet.
The protesters also plan several marches in Bangkok starting from Sunday to build momentum ahead of the occupation attempt.
Thai stocks and the baht currency have fallen sharply on concerns that the deepening crisis will scare off foreign tourists and international investment.
In 2008 opposition protesters paralyzed Bangkok’s main airports, stranding thousands of tourists.
A number of foreign governments have advised their nationals to avoid the current protest sites.
But the protest movement insisted tourists had nothing to fear.
“Shops and hotels near the protest sites are full. I ask tourists to feel relieved — they can join the protesters,” said spokesman Akanat Promphan.
“I understand about some entrepreneurs’ concerns. But if the prime minister resigns, everything will be solved,” he added.
Yingluck has called February elections but the protesters have vowed to block the vote, which they fear will only return the Shinawatra clan to power.
The country’s Election Commission, whose call to postpone the polls was last week rejected by the government, said Friday the election was expected to go ahead.
The protesters have prevented candidates registering for the polls in several opposition-dominated southern provinces, potentially setting the stage for a situation in which there are not enough elected members of Parliament after the polls to select a prime minister.
“We have reached the stage of impending civil war — in slow motion,” said Paul Chambers, director of research at the Institute of Southeast Asian Affairs at Chiang Mai University in northern Thailand.
He voiced fears of clashes between the opposition protesters and government supporters.