Swedes caught up in Thai unrest

TT/David Landes
TT/David Landes - [email protected]
Swedes caught up in Thai unrest

Hundreds of Swedes are among the estimated 3,000 travelers stranded in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport after violent anti-government protesters stormed the building on Tuesday, forcing authorities to shut down operations.


On Wednesday, there were reports of several explosions at the airport, resulting in injuries to four people.

The Swedish foreign ministry estimates that a few hundred Swedes are caught up in the unrest, but the exact number remains unclear.

“They can’t get out of there, either home to Sweden or into the city,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Gufran al-Nadaf to the TT news agency on Tuesday.

“The roads are blocked and there are demonstrators at the airport. All flights are cancelled.”

A Thai Airways flight with 380 travelers from Sweden on its way to Thailand late Tuesday night was however able to land at Bangkok’s old Don Muang airport.

An airport spokesperson told the Reuters news agency the airport would remain closed through Wednesday, and Scandinavian airline SAS said it was cancelling all flights to Bangkok until security can be guaranteed.

Around 50 of the passengers who were scheduled to take an SAS flight to Copenhagen on Tuesday were able to check in but were then forced to wait at the airport.

“We don’t know what will happen with them because our staff was asked by authorities to leave the airport,” said SAS spokesperson Anne Mette Philipsen to TT.

Around 40 other passengers who had not yet checked in for their flights, ended up leaving the airport to take refuge in a hotel in the city.

A total of nine passengers flying with the Apollo charter company were also stuck at the airport, while an additional six never checked in and could be taken back to their hotel.

“Our personnel have called all of our Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish passengers who are there. None of them are especially worried for their own safety,” said Apollo spokesperson Kajsa Moström.

“They describe the situation as chaotic but they aren’t afraid.”

The Apollo passengers were scheduled to fly with Thai Airways, but as of Tuesday evening they had no further information about when they may be able to leave the airport.

Charter company Ving had about fifteen of its own travelers on their way to Bangkok aboard a Thai Airways flight.

“The latest information we have is that all departures have been cancelled, but that certain planes have been allowed to land. Otherwise, they are being redirected to other airports,” said Ving spokesperson Magdalena Öhrn.

The unrest in the Thai capital is part of a campaign by the opposition People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) to oust the current government.

The PAD has occupied government offices since August and accuses the government of being a corrupt puppet regime of the deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is currently seeking asylum in the UK.

PAD protesters had hoped that by taking over the airport they could intercept the plane of current Thai prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, which was scheduled to return from Peru on Tuesday.

The protests also coincide with the start of high season for Swedish tourism to Thailand. Last year, around 360,000 Swedes visited the country according to the Fritidsresor charter company.

While Swedish travel companies continue to monitor the situation in Bangkok, they emphasized that many Swedish travelers choose to bypass the capital and instead travel directly to popular destinations like Phuket or Krabi.

“We have about 6,000 Swedes in Thailand now. Eighty of them are in Bangkok, they arrived on Tuesday morning,” said Fritidsresor spokesperson Marie Malmros.


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