Protesters urged to spare air traffic control

Protesters urged to spare air traffic control

Department of Civil Aviation chief Woradej Harnprasert has threatened anti-government protesters with harsh penalties if they attempt to stop the work of air traffic controllers as part of plans to rally outside Aerothai HQ on Wednesday.

Demonstrators could face prison terms of up to 15 years and be fined up to 30,000 baht for any disruption of air traffic control, the official said on Monday.

The warning comes after protesters from the Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand (NSPRT) promised to blockade the entrance to Aerothai (Aeronautical Radio of Thailand) unless caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra steps down by Wednesday.

Aerothai is in sole charge of communications between aircraft and air traffic controllers in Thailand. Their offices on Soi Ngam Dupli in Bangkok's Sathorn district act as a networking centre for computer systems linking air traffic control posts across the country.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) has also been singled out as a target by protesters.

Caretaker Transport Minister Chadchat Sittipunt appealed to protesters, pleading with them not to hold the country hostage by closing Aerothai offices.

"Please do not blockade Aerothai. Such action would have a vast impact. Do not hold the country hostage. Aerothai is the eyes of all planes," he said.

A blockade of radio aviation control would disrupt planes landing and taking off from all Thai airports, as well as aircrafts passing through Thai air space.

The SET has not commented on protesters' plan to halt trading if Ms Yingluck fails to step down.

Uthai Yodmanee, core NSPRT leader, said the group plans to shut down the stock market because Thai investors are ignoring the current political situation. He said protesters believe the stock market is the heart of the "Thaksin regime", since former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is still able to manipulate markets in the country from overseas.

Mr Uthai added that the blockade of the entrance to Aerothai would be peaceful because soldiers are stationed at the site. 

If there is any violence at Aerothai, the government must be held responsible, as stated by the army commander in chief," he said. "It is clear that the soldiers are on the same side as the people."


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