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Cablegate: December 4: Update On Thailand's Airports And

VZCZCXRO8776
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHBK #3561/01 3390958
ZNR UUUUU ZZH (CCY ADX00066DCC LOP2265)
O 040958Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5309
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING IMMEDIATE 6600
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA IMMEDIATE 9275
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL IMMEDIATE 5131
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE IMMEDIATE 5024
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI IMMEDIATE 5948
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY IMMEDIATE 0862
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHMCSUU/FAA NATIONAL HQ WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFIUU/TSA HQ WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 003561

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y CHANGE TO PAR1

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, CA, EEB, DS
TRANSPORTATION FOR TSA
STATE PASS TO USTR
TREASURE 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 4: UPDATE ON THAILAND'S AIRPORTS AND
AIRLINES

REF: A. BANGKOK 3532 (DECEMBER 2: UPDATE)
B. BANGKOK 3540 (DECEMBER 3: UPDATE)
C. BANGKOK 3519 (THAILAND: ECONOMY SUFFERS)
D. BANGKOK 3530 (THAI BANKS REMAIN STRONG)

BANGKOK 00003561 001.5 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary. U.S. Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) representatives began assessing the
security conditions at Suvarnabhumi on December 4. TSA is
working with U.S. air carriers and Thai officials to ensure
that all safety and security regulations are met prior
to U.S. air carriers being able to fly to the
United States. U.S. air carriers have agreed not to
resume flights until December 6 at the earliest.
At the same time, the Thai Department of Civil Aviation
has decided airport conditions are good enough
for the resumption of non-U.S. bound flights on December 3,
although check-in continues to be located off-site. Several
airlines are flying out of the airport to international
destinations, although not yet directly to the U.S. Due to
low interest, the U.S. Embassy has decided a chartered flight
for Amcits is no longer necessary. On the economic front,
repercussions from the airport seizure have been felt most
visibly in the tourism industry. Occupancy rates at major
hotels in Bangkok are below 25 percent. The exact costs of
the airport seizure are hard to determine, but there is no
doubt that Thailand's image has suffered greatly. End
Summary.

Airport Security Conditions
---------------------------
2. (SBU) TSA accompanied officials from the Airports Of
Thailand, as well as United Airlines and Northwest Airlines
reps, on December 4 to Suvarnabhumi in order to conduct a
preliminary security assessment of the airport. TSA began
with a walk through of the perimeter of the airport and
anticipates viewing the rest of airport operations throughout
the night and possibly into the weekend. TSA also heard
presentations from the U.S. airlines on the status of their
operations and security procedures. TSA will prepare a
report for its Washington headquarters upon completion of its
assessment. Due to the size and complexity of the airport,
TSA cannot give an exact timeline for completion of the
assessment, but it seems unlikely to be completed before
December 5.

3. (SBU) The Thai Department of Civil Aviation (DCA),
accompanied by ICAO reps, is also inspecting the airport to
determine safety and security conditions there. A DCA
official told the Embassy on December 4 that DCA began
inspections immediately after protesters left and expect to
conclude their work later this week. In the meantime, DCA
stated that the flight side of the airport, such as runways
and the control tower, were not affected. Therefore, flights
are allowed to take off while the inspection of the interior
of the airport continues. Check-in, baggage inspection, and
immigration control are still being done off-site, primarily
at the BITEC Convention Center.

Airline and Cargo Flights
-------------------------
4. (SBU) Executives at United and Northwest told the
Embassy that they have decided to postpone resumption of
flights until December 6 at the earliest. The airlines had
previously made public announcements that they would resume
flights on December 5. However, the airlines determined that
additional time would be needed in order to ensure flight
operations were safe and secure. TSA advises that while
necessary assessments may be completed by this weekend, it is
not yet clear when United and Northwest will resume flights

BANGKOK 00003561 002.4 OF 002


out of Bangkok.

5. (SBU) Thai Airways has announced several international
flights departing from Suvarnabhumi. None of these are bound
for the U.S. Thai Airways executives told the Embassy on
December 4 that they will continue check-in at the BITEC
Convention Center and then bus passengers to plane-side at
Suvarnabhumi. Thai Airways has ceased operations at U-Tapao,
the military airfield it had been using during the airport
occupation. According to TSA, Thai Airways will resume
flights to the United States only when the airline has
performed all necessary security checks.

6. (SBU) Cargo operators such as UPS informed the Embassy
on December 4 that cargo loading areas at Suvarnabhumi had
been cleared and appeared to be in good condition. UPS is
ready to begin operations out of Suvarnabhumi December 5
provided they have satisfied all security requirements.
Federal Express said that they have begun flights into
Suvarnabhumi. Thai businesses and industries, such as the
Thailand Post Office, reported to the press they are
beginning to shift the bulk of their cargo operations back to
Suvarnabhumi.

Consular Assistance
-------------------
7. (SBU) The Consular Section received approximately fifty
responses to an Embassy announcement concerning the
possibility of a chartered flight. However, when contacted,
most Amcits decided they would wait for commercial flights.
Consular distributed a follow-up message indicating there
will not be a charter flight. Consular continues to assist
Amcits and answer calls twenty-four hours a day.

Economic Repercussions
----------------------
8. (SBU) Executives at five-star hotels, including Marriot,
Hilton, and Hyatt reported to the Embassy on December 3 that
their occupancy rates are 25 percent or lower, the lowest
ever recorded. Travel agents feel confident the tourism
industry in Thailand is resilient and has survived shocks
before. However, industry executives speculate it will take
at least six months for convention and business related
bookings to pick up in Bangkok.

9. (SBU) Since the airport seizure just over a week ago,
ratings agencies have revised their outlook for Thailand to
negative but have not adjusted the ratings themselves; and
growth rate projections have been revised downward (see
reftels C and D).

10. (SBU) Thai Airways announced to the press it plans to
seek legal redress against anti-government protesters for
losses suffered during the airport shutdown.

11. (SBU) Septel discusses a joint demarche to the MFA
expressing concern over airport security delivered by the
U.S. Ambassador and other ambassadors.
JOHN

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