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Cablegate: December 3: Update On Thailand's Airport And

VZCZCXRO7210
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHBK #3540/01 3381027
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 031027Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5287
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING IMMEDIATE 6590
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA IMMEDIATE 9264
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL IMMEDIATE 5120
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE IMMEDIATE 5019
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI IMMEDIATE 5941
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY IMMEDIATE 0859
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 003540

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, CA, EEB, DS
TRANSPORTATION FOR TSA
STATE PASS TO USTR
TREASURY FOR OASIA
COMMERCE FOR EAP/MAC/OKSA
SINGAPORE FOR FINATT BAKER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC CASC CMGT EAIR EFIN PGOV PREL ETRD TH
SUBJECT: DECEMBER 3: UPDATE ON THAILAND'S AIRPORT AND
AIRLINE SITUATION

REF: BANGKOK 3532 (DECEMBER 2: UPDATE)

BANGKOK 00003540 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: Anti-government protesters claimed
victory and departed Thailand's airports December 3 after the
high court dissolved several political parties and the prime
minister stepped down December 2. The Airports of Thailand
(AOT) reports that Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok's international
airport, will reopen by Friday, December 5 although a few
Thai Airways flights have begun already. AOT says there
appears to be no apparent damage from the week long
occupation by anti-government demonstrators. U.S. airline
executives also state they are prepared to begin flights on
December 5. Before flights to the United States can begin,
the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will
first conduct a security analysis of Suvarnabhumi. The
Embassy continues to explore options for chartering a flight
to transport stranded Americans to Singapore or a regional
transit point, although this may no longer be necessary given
that Suvarnabhumi seems to be going operational sooner than
expected. End Summary.

Airport Conditions
------------------
2. (SBU) Anti-government demonstrators have departed
Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports. AOT also reports
equipment at the two airports, including the control towers,
appears to be undamaged and no sensitive equipment at the
airports was compromised. Airport staff are beginning to
return to work. AOT released statements to the media that
the Suvarnabhumi Airport will reopen by December 5,
coinciding with King Bhumibol's birthday. One international
flight, according to Thai Airways executives, has already
left from Suvarnabhumi. Don Muang, primarily a domestic
airport, also expects to be functioning by December 5.

3. (SBU) TSA representatives are working with the RTG and
AOT to arrange a safety analysis of Suvarnabhumi. TSA will
conduct an initial walk through of the airport on December 4.
TSA expects U.S. air carriers operating from Suvarnabhumi and
foreign carriers flying direct to the U.S. to have performed
all required security measures prior to flying.

Airlines Claim They Are Ready to Take-off
-----------------------------------------

4. (SBU) A United Airways (UA) executive told the Embassy on
December 3 that UA staff inspected equipment at Suvarnabhumi.
Everything appeared to be operational, including baggage
systems and computers. The executive said that there were no
major security breaches and all UA systems were intact. The
executive said one airplane is prepared to land at
Suvarnabhumi late December 4 and depart from the airport on
December 5. The American Chamber of Commerce has also
distributed this flight information to members by email. A
Northwest Airlines (NWA) executive also told the Embassy they
were prepared to begin service by December 5 and has
distributed an informal email listing flight times.

5. (SBU) Thai Airways officials informed the Embassy on
December 3 that the airline will resume operations out of
Suvarnabhumi on December 4, with a limited number of flights
(although a few Thai Airways flights have already begun).
They expect to be back up to full speed later this week. The
officials said Thai Airways would shut down their operations
at U-Tapao later this week. Flights for December 4 operating
out of Suvarnabhumi are already posted on the Thai Airways
website and have been released to the media.

Chartered Flights for Citizens
-------------------------------

6. (SBU) The Embassy Consular Section, working with
Consular Affairs (CA) in Washington, released a statement to
American citizens that the Embassy is exploring the

BANGKOK 00003540 002.2 OF 002


possibility of organizing a chartered flight. The statement
was posted on the Embassy website as well as distributed to
wardens, the American Chamber of Commerce, and area hotels.
Interested citizens were told to contact the Embassy by phone
or email. Depending on the level of interest, the Embassy
will consider whether chartering a flight is necessary
(although this option looks increasingly unnecessary). The
Embassy also is convening a daily internal meeting to discuss
the current airport and airline situation.

7. (SBU) The Consular Section and other mission sections,
including TSA and the Regional Security Office, have made
site visits to area airports and venues to determine the most
feasible locations for check-in and departure should a
chartered flight be arranged. Currently, one potential
option is to fly out of Wing Six of Don Muang. Wing Six is
the military wing of Don Muang (see reftel) and located in
Bangkok. Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) officials met with
Embassy staff on December 3 and explained they are willing to
allow chartered flights out of Wing Six, provided passengers
are prescreened at an offsite location. Equipment to be used
at Wing Six, such as stairs and baggage loaders, would have
to be rented by the USG.

8. (SBU) The most feasible option for prescreening Amcit
charter passengers may be to check-in passengers at a hotel.
The French Embassy employed a hotel for check-in of their
citizens on its chartered flight. An Embassy team also
visited the BITEC convention center that has been used as the
prescreening area for Thai Airways, Eva Air, and several
other airlines, during the occupation of Suvarnabhumi and Don
Muang December 3. However, based on an initial inspection by
the Embassy, BITEC appears to have serious security
deficiencies, including the lack of security measures around
buses to take passengers from BITEC to the airport. Thai
City Air Terminal (TCAT), which serves as Thai Airways
headquarters, can also accommodate check-in for a chartered
flight. However, TCAT may be too small.

9. (SBU) Embassy officials contacted diplomats at the
British and Australian Embassies, who stated they are no
longer considering the option of chartered flights, largely
due to the imminent reopening of Suvarnabhumi. The French
chartered one flight that departed from Wing Six at Don Muang
with 500 passengers on December 3.

10. (SBU) Septel will address political developments in
Thailand.
JOHN

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