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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     7 November  2011

Photo misrepresents Thai air traffic
Images of a Thai Airways International Airbus stranded in deep floodwater at Don Mueang airport have caused misconceptions among many people outside Thailand that Bangkok is closed to air traffic.

That has frustrated both airlines and the management of Suvarnabhumi Airport, the country's gateway, where it is business as usual and flood prevention defences are said to be very strong.

They point fingers at the media, particularly international news outlets, which have made insufficient effort to tell their audiences that Thailand has two airports and that the main one is still functioning normally.

"As long as [the media] flash images of planes stranded at Don Mueang, and don't clearly state that the main airport, Suvarnabhumi, is functioning, then we will see more and more visitors shying away, adding insult to injury," said Somchai Sawasdeepon, senior executive vice-president of Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT).

Executives of Centara Hotels & Resorts, one of Thailand's largest hospitality operators, agreed that most people outside Thailand were not aware that the flooding affected only Don Mueang. However, they said that Asian tourists were already shifting to other countries and European tourists were postponing trips to unaffected areas including Phuket, Samui, Krabi and Chiang Mai.

They complained that the government, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports were not doing enough to dispel the misconception.
Mr. Somchai, also the acting general manager of Suvarnabhumi Airport, reaffirmed his confidence that the main airport was capable of dealing with floods, though he believed the likelihood of water reaching Suvarnabhumi was low.

He took journalists to inspect the flood prevention facilities at the airport on Friday. However, many photographers chose positions that resulted in images of aircraft approaching and taking off above the reservoir adjacent to the airport. Those pictures were widely circulated over the weekend.

There are 3.5-metre-high polder dykes surrounding the airport. Construction of the dykes started in 1995 and was completed in 2000, which has made them very strong and capable of preventing the penetration of water.

Last week, the Department of Highways drilled the dykes to test their strength and found them to be highly secure and very capable of preventing water from the outside, if the water level is less than 3.5 metres high, he noted.

Furthermore, Mr Somchai said Suvarnabhumi had a high-standard water-management system, with drainage canals all around the site to drain water into the reservoirs, which have capacity to store 4 million cubic metres of water -four times the volume they contain now.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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