Thai Protests Strand Thousands of Tourists

Protesters were largely cordial, handing out water, food to stranded tourists.

ByABC News
November 26, 2008, 9:54 AM

BANGKOK, Thailand, Nov. 26, 2008 -- More than 3,000 passengers are stranded here today in the Thai capital after Bangkok's international airport was shut down by masses of anti-government protesters. Demonstrators clad in yellow, symbolizing the revered Thai king, stormed the arrivals hall Tuesday, triggering airport authorities to cancel all flights.

Passengers at the world's 18th busiest airport were left with few instructions for where to go or when flights would be resumed, although the travelers have since been transported to hotels around the city.

Once flights were canceled, airline staff hastily abandoned check-in counters and immigration-control officers packed up and went home. Passengers were stuck in the airport overnight, left to sleep on floors while demonstrators held a rally outside.

The biggest complaint among tourists was a lack of communication. "No one told us our flight was cancelled, there were just rumors," said Mike Thompson, who was on his way back to England with his wife Karen. "There's no one at any of the desks and no one has spoken to us. ... We just don't know anything ... no one's telling us anything. That's the annoying part."

The demonstrators -- a group called the People's Alliance for Democracy, or PAD -- have been holding ongoing protests through Bangkok since May. They say Thailand's prime minister, the democratically elected Somchai Wongsawat, is corrupt.

Linda Edwards, a mother of four children who was trying to get home to Richmond, Va., for Thanksgiving, said, "I understand democracy, but it's not democratic to hold other people against their will. What does that have to do with democracy? Why are they protesting here at the airport? They've trapped citizens of the whole world here."

But the protesters were largely cordial. They handed out bottles of water to tourists and apologized for the inconvenience. Still, when one demonstrator heard a stranded passenger from New York City complaining about being stuck in the airport with his wife and 7-year-old son, the man stepped forward. "This is our country," he said. "You have no choice."

Then he turned and walked away.