About 45 protesters used bolt cutters to break into Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s abandoned office yesterday, after five days of occupying the grounds surrounding the building.
One of the activists said protest leader Chamlong Srimuang had ordered them to force open the doors so that he could use the offices himself.
The so-called People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has led thousands of protesters in anti-government rallies since May, but they stepped up their campaign on Tuesday as they marched into the Government House compound and set up camp.
About 15,000 protesters were squatting there at midday yesterday, one day after the rally erupted into skirmishes with riot police, causing minor injuries and setting nerves on edge.
“Chamlong told us to clean up the mess left by police, so that PAD’s five supreme leaders can use the offices inside the building during the rally,” the activist said.
STRANDED ON PHUKET
Meanwhile, about 15,000 passengers were stranded on the holiday isle of Phuket yesterday, as hundreds of anti-government protesters blocked access to the island’s airport, officials said.
Thailand’s second-busiest airport was closed on Friday afternoon after 5,000 protesters set up a blockade and marched down the tarmac, forcing authorities to suspend flights to and from the island.
About 400 protesters from PAD blocked access to the airport.
Frustrated travelers carrying backpacks and rolling luggage behind them tried to enter the terminal. About 100 made it inside before the protesters started turning them away.
“I want to go home. I have nothing to do with this situation,” one frustrated Australian man said.
Wicha Nurnlop, director of Phuket International Airport, said the airport would remain closed at least through 6pm yesterday.
More than 100 flights had been canceled, including 25 on international routes, Wicha said.
FREE HOTEL ROOMS
Tourists have been given free hotel rooms until the airport reopens, while authorities were scrambling to arrange buses for about 100 passengers trying to connect to onward flights in Bangkok, he said.
Few police were seen at the airport, and protesters appeared to have been allowed to roam facilities freely.
Wicha said protesters were demanding the government release 85 detained activists and calling for Samak’s resignation.
The nearby Krabi airport also remained closed since Friday evening, the operator Airports of Thailand said.
But the southern airport in Hat Yai had reopened for a Thai Airways flight early yesterday, after protesters had forced its closure on Friday as well.