Thai Protestors Force Cancellation of Flights

Thailand’s troubled tourism picture just got gloomier.

Protesters from the People's Alliance for Democracy at Thailand's Suvarnabhumi International Airport on Tuesday at first forced the cancellation of departing flights. This eventually spread to a cancellation of all flights. At Don Muang Airport, Thailand’s domestic airport, thousands of alliance protesters surrounded government offices. There have also been reports of a bomb blasts at both airports resulting in injuries to 20 people. Also on Tuesday, in Bangkok, shots from protesters were fired at government supporters in a clash in the capital. This is the first time protesters openly used guns.

The People's Alliance for Democracy is attempting to topple Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and force a move away from a Western-style electoral system. Previously, the alliance commandeered the prime minister's office in late August and twice blockaded Parliament, which resulted in hundreds of injuries and two deaths. Thailand’s tourism arrivals have already dipped due to the international economic slowdown, and accounts of violent protests are further exacerbating the bleak forecast for the remainder of 2008.

Earlier, Thailand's tourism industry had forecast a loss of 32 billion baht (approximately $930 million) if the current political standoff was prolonged into the fourth quarter of this year, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand. This represents 5 percent of the year's estimated earnings.