Travellers advised to avoid southern routes blocked by rubber growers; airport open

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BANGKOK, Sept 4 – Thailand’s Ministry of Transport on Wednesday urged the public to avoid some highways leading to the southern provinces now being blocked by rubber grower protests, but Surat Thani Airport remains open despite a threatened closure.

Regarding the threats of rubber growers to seize Surat Thani airport, Civil Aviation Department Dir-Gen Woradej Hanprasert said the agency is closely monitoring the protesters’ move but the airport is still operating as usual. The airport’s front entrance is closed for safety reasons but passengers can enter the airport through the Surat Thani Air Force Wing 7 Base.

The State Railways of Thailand (SRT) said the rallies have caused Bt31 million in damages by its forced service suspension.

Deputy Transport Minister Prin Suwanatat said, as of today the protesters have blocked seven sites in the South, affecting commuters on two highways, Petchkasem Highway 4 and Sukhumvit Highway 3.

Highways Department Chief Chatchawan Booncharoenkij said the seven locations obstructed by protesters were in front of Rayong’s provincial government complex, two spots in Surat Thani, three intersections in Nakhon Si Thammarat, one intersection in Trang and a highway in Phatthalung.

Mr Prin said the ministry has instructed agencies including the Highways Department, Land Transport Department, Civil Aviation Department, and the Airports Authority of Thailand as well as Thai Airways to work together in providing information to commuters travelling to the South and the East.

Transport Co managing director Wutthichart Kalayanamitr said the protests hit the company’s southern bus route, but south-bound bus services will continue. The buses going further south in Surat Thani province must reroute, running for a further 30-100 kilometres to avoid blocked highways.

He admitted that the rerouted buses cost an additional Bt100,000 daily for fuel and delay the scheduled arrival time.

Meanwhile, SRT Governor Prapat Jongsanguan said the protesters’ blockade of Baan Toon-Cha-uat rail tracks from through August 3 to September 3 has caused Bt31.9 million in damages to the agency as 160 southbound trains were forced to suspend their services.