Airport blockade adds to Thai business woes

27 November 2008 04:59  [Source: ICIS news]

SINGAPORE (ICIS news)—Thai anti-government protests which recently forced the country’s main air-hub in Bangkok to cease flight operations was adding to uncertainty in the business climate, sources said on Thursday.


Thousands of travellers were stranded at Suvarnabhumi Airport since Wednesday morning as protesters from the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) beseiged the airport demanding that Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat resign and a fresh election to be held.


“Our tour agent informed us our flights were cancelled yesterday and we have been stuck in the hotel, monitoring the situation on the TV,” said Dennis Yeo, ICIS account manager, who was scheduled to return to Singapore on a Wednesday evening flight.


“There are scores of tourists here, and everyone is moaning about the situation. The town itself is as per normal, not exactly chaotic, but there were a couple of blasts in the city according to the news reports, and the hotels around our area have stepped up security,” said Yeo, who was staying at a Marriott Hotel.


Thai petrochemical manufacturers have also expressed dismay at the deteriorating political situation but were unable to see an end to the political deadlock.


“Our business has been affected to some degree as we’ve postponed all staff travel and some of our customers are stuck in the city,” a plastics processor in Bangkok said.


“We’re arranging for our visitors to leave by train to Malaysia or Singapore, and they can take a flight home from there,” the processor said.


The protests have had limited impact on operations as Thailand’s petrochemical industry as most makers are located at the Mab Ta Phut Industrial Estate in Rayong province, which is about 179 km from Bangkok.


The delivery of shipping documents to customers outside Thailand would be delayed, as international courier services were disrupted after the international airport closed, a local polyethylene (PE) producer said.


“Our courier service provider has found an alternative airport but we expect some delays in the document delivery,” he said. Overseas customers need the shipping documents for collecting their cargoes at the receiving ports.


The sole petrochemical plant located in Bangkok which produces expandable polystyrene (EPS) was shut on Wednesday amid escalating anti-government demonstrations.


As business travel in and out of the country slows to a halt, no clear resolution appears to be in sight, sources said.


“At this point in time, there doesn’t seem to be an end to this, as both parties are not standing down, the PAD says they will not stop until PM steps down,” Yeo said, adding that alternative travel options appear to be limited as news reports of an impending rail strike trickle in.


“They (PAD) have captured Don Muang this morning, that’s not an option,” he said referring to Bangkok’s older international airport. “Until they find a solution we are stuck here.”


Steve Tan contributed to this story


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By: Chow Bee Lin
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