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Fri 5 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Under siege

Tens of thousands of foreigners were left stranded in Bangkok airport after it was stormed by anti-government protestors. Here's how the chaos was reported around the world...

Tens of thousands of foreigners were left stranded in Bangkok airport after it was stormed by anti-government protestors. Here's how the chaos was reported around the world...Independent, UK

The Independent summed up the situation: "The PAD [People's Alliance for Democracy] is seeking the overthrow of the current Thai government led by Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat. Mr Somchai, who is the brother-in-law of the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was elected last December after a military coup in 2006 ousted Mr Thaksin."

The paper went on to describe the resulting chaos. "Hundreds of protesters occupying Bangkok's main airport yesterday stormed a police blockade, forcing 150 officers to flee a checkpoint as tensions mounted in the five-day stand-off that has virtually paralysed Thailand.

Anti-government demonstrators armed with metal bars, baseball bats and golf clubs overran the cordon around the airport's perimeter, letting down the tyres of four police vans." It also reported that "a grenade was lobbed into a rally of protesters occupying the compound at Government House, injuring 46 people."

BangkokPost, Thailand

"The tourism industry across the country has been dealt a massive blow with the shutdown of Suvarnabhumi, the country's main commercial gateway to the world, as well as Don Mueang airport, which mainly handles domestic flights," said the Post.

The report went on to say that tens of thousands of stranded passengers were squeezed into the only terminal at U-tapao airport to catch flights out of the country and that "tents have been erected outside the terminal to provide shelter to the passengers and more mobile toilets have been installed."

"Almost 100,000 foreign tourists are still unable to return home, but the number of passengers stranded by the closure of Suvarnabhumi airport may double or triple if the situation is prolonged."

The New York Times, USA

"The Thai prime minister, Somchai Wongsawat, has remained in the northern city of Chiang Mai since Wednesday, possibly because he fears a military coup" said the New York Times.

They reported that the protestors, "who on Saturday repeated their refusal to negotiate with the police unless Mr. Somchai steps down ... have occupied the prime minister's office in Bangkok for the past three months. An explosion on the grounds of the prime minister's office just after midnight on Sunday wounded 50 people, 4 of them seriously."

The Times reiterated that the threat of violence "remained high" and that "government supporters, who have formed an auxiliary group known as the Red Shirts, scheduled a rally for Sunday. Clashes between supporters of the government and detractors have left at least two people dead and dozens injured since August, when protesters seized the prime minister's office.

"Some protesters carried metal rods or golf clubs as they guarded the entrances to Suvarnabhumi Airport on Saturday. Sondhi Limthongkul, a protest leader who addressed his followers early in the day, also appeared to confirm that the group had firearms when he threatened to shoot at the police if fired upon. ‘If they come, we will not open the door,' he said. ‘If they shoot us, we will shoot back.'"

Sydney Morning Herald, Australia

"Australians trying to escape the political siege at Bangkok's two main airports could be facing a 14-hour bus ride to Phuket in order to get home," said the SMH.

While hundreds of Australians remains remain caught in the Thai capital "One Australian who did manage to make an escape is Denmark's Princess Mary, who with her husband, Prince Frederik, flew out from a military airport on a small corporate jet on Friday" the paper said.

Reporting on efforts to transport stranded Australians home, they reported that "subject to approval by Thai authorities, Qantas is planning to put on an A330-300 - which can hold close to 300 passengers - from Phuket to Singapore on Monday night local time.

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