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13 Jan, 2014

Peace Prevails on Day One of “Bangkok Shutdown” Political Protests

A round-up of key developments on Day 1 of the Bangkok Shutdown anti-government protests.

(+) The day passed peacefully, with plenty of fiery rhetoric but no clashes or conflicts. Anti-government protestors blockaded intersections at 7 key city spots and spent the day listening to thundering speeches and being entertained by popular Thai musicians and performers, with flags and clappers. Estimates turnout varied but TV images showed hundreds of thousand people. The numbers swelled in the evening as the weather got better and offices closed. Protest leaders made the rounds of the seven protest spots.

(+) Traffic was flowing smoothly on the open roads, as there were hardly any vehicles. The rail-based mass-transit systems, the Skytrain and the Underground, became the main form of public transport, along with the river and the canals. The bus service, taxis and tuk-tuks reported an estimated 30% decline in passengers and income due to the road-closures.

(+) Tourists and travellers followed industry advice and found their way to the two city airports (Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang) four to five hours before flight time. There were no airline cancellations or delays attributable to the protests.

(+) A number of department stores and malls in the vicinity of the protest zones closed early as there was virtually no business. Hotels in the same areas were virtually empty. While leisure travellers have been offered alternative tours in the provinces, the most affected sectors have been business travel, meetings, conferences and events in Bangkok.

(+) TV stations were hard-pressed to find news as there was no violence and nothing sensational was happening. Talking-head analysts continued to recycle their theories, and most clips were about traffic-facilitation measures. CCTV units have been hooked up at all the protest spots, and TV journalists were given a tour of the monitoring centres at the security agencies.

(+) In the provinces, life was going on as normal. Upcountry destinations have benefitted significantly from the Bangkok Shutdown protests. Many street-side souvenir-sellers have taken their business to other popular tourist spots upcountry.

(+) Pro-government protestors were holding their own rallies in the provinces, also peacefully. They are threatening to come to Bangkok to confront the anti-government protestors but have so far been kept in check to prevent a clash.

(+) No progress has been reported in settling the core political disputes. Hence, the protests are likely to go on for a while until one or the other side blinks first.

(+) Also on Monday, Jan 13, Thailand released the final figures of visitor arrivals of 26,735,583, up 19.60% over 2012. The biggest development was Laos joining the one-million club with 1,106,080 arrivals, up 13.33% over 2012. Other countries generating more than one million annual arrivals for Thailand are China, Malaysia, Russia, Japan, Korea and India.

(+) However, there are clear indications of the political crisis beginning to bite: Arrivals in December 2013 totalled 2,598,015, up by 6.67% over 2012, the smallest monthly growth for the entire year. Slowdowns and declines were reported from some key source-markets in December: Arrivals from India totalled 90,935, down 1%; Hong Kong down 26% to 31,261; Indonesia down 2.5% to 49,216; Sweden down 21.7% to 57,811. However, these were offset by significant increases from all other key markets such as China, Russia, Malaysia, Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Germany.

THAI Operational Status for 13 January 2014

Thai Airways International Public Company Limited (THAI) reports on its operations during the Bangkok street closures on 13 January 2014.

Mr. Chokchai Panyayong, THAI Senior Executive Vice President of Commercial and Acting President, said that during the period of political protest in Bangkok on 13 January 2014, Thai Airways International (THAI) and THAI Smile flights operated as normal with no flight delays resulting from the protests.  Nonetheless, Mr. Panyayong reminds passengers to leave for Suvarnabhumi Airport four (4) hours before their scheduled flight departure time, due to some main road closures and detour of routes to the airport.

For ticketing services passengers are advised to visit THAI ticketing offices at Larn Luang, at Silom, and at Suvarnabhumi Airport on the 4th floor. THAI ticket services at its head office and at the Government Complex (on Chaengwattana Road) will remain closed on Tuesday, 14 January.

THAI Flight schedule changes on 14 January 2014

Flight Route New Flight Departure Time Arrival Time
TG048 Bangkok-Khon Kaen TG042 15:20 hours 16:15 hours
TG049 Khon Kaen-Bangkok TG043 17:00 hours 17:55 hours
TG638 Bangkok-Hong Kong TG606 16:00 hours 19:45 hours
TG639 Hong Kong-Bangkok TG607 20:45 hours 22:30 hours

For additional information passengers can visit THAI through the following channels: THAI website (www.thaiairways.com), THAI Call Center at 02-356-1111, www.thaismileair.com, or check flight status through the smart phone application called THAI Flight Check at http://bit.ly/THAIflightcheck .