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Thai air traffic crisis frustration grows -

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Thai air traffic crisis frustration grows

Broadcast: 02/12/2008


LEIGH SALES: Thai protesters who've been occupying Government House since August are preparing to
leave and hand it back to authorities.

But there's still no indication that they'll abandon their demonstrations at Bangkok's two main
airports, stranding thousands of passengers.

The international community is growing increasingly frustrated over the failure to end the
political crisis in Thailand.

South East Asia correspondent Karen Percy reports.

KAREN PERCY: These Australians have never been happier to be going home.

A special flight has been organised for the 280 men and women who've been given priority for health
or other reasons.

They're heading first to the tourist town of Phuket in southern Thailand. It will take them 10 to
12 hours by road to get there, then they can finally join a late night Qantas flight bound for
Sydney via Singapore.

SIMON CREAN, ACTING FOREIGN MINISTER: If we were able to get a better handle for how the Government
was preeding to deal with it and communicate that effectively with the airport authority we might
have been able it move a bit quicker on this.

KAREN PERCY: Others are having to make their own arrangements.

Queenslander Janine and her partner got stuck in transit on Wednesday after more than a month in
India. They're at the Suvarnabhumi international airport just a short distance from where the
protest is taking place.

JANNENE HARKER, AUSTRALIAN VISITOR: Being so close to the protesters, and knowing they have
weapons, razor wires, grenade, we're prepared for something to happen in the middle of the night.
You don't sleep well in that knowledge.

KAREN PERCY: She and five others have managed to get themselves on a Jetstar flight from Phuket
tomorrow night.

JANNENE HARKER: That relief of knowing we'd booked a flight even if we had to pay for it ourselves,
we were celebrating in ourselves. I saw my partner smile for the first time in a week. So I can't
wait to get home.

KAREN PERCY: For the first time in six days there is activity on the tarmac at Suvarnabhumi. After
the protest leaders agreed to let planes abandoned last week to leave.

Once all 90 are gone the plan is to use them to assist in the operations under way at the Udapal
military base south of Bangkok.

There are tens of thousands of travellers waiting to get home, with an estimated 30,000 additional
passengers joining the queues every day.

The residents of Bangkok now have another protest group to contend with after the Government's
supporters decided to stray on in the city after a rally last night. As a way to challenge the
anti-government protesters at the airport who show no sign of moving on.

As the political crisis engulfs Thailand and paralyses tourism and business, the Prime Minister is
nowhere to be seen. He refuses to return to Bangkok, instead spending his time in Chiang Mai in the
eastern provinces. He seems to have no control of the police or the army who are refusing to move
these protesters out despite an emergency decree.

He is resisting pressure, mounting pressure, to resign, but tomorrow the constitutional court might
force his hand. It's due to rule on a vote buying case related to last year's elections, it could
mean his People Power party is dissolved and his government forced to step down.

Karen Percy, Lateline.