Chicago Sun-Times
With Lori Rackl

November 2008 Archives

Big problems in Thailand

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A former Chicagoan who now lives and works in Bangkok wrote me this morning to say how dangerous he feels it's become in this perenially popular Thai city, what with the recent protests, etc.

I must admit, I'd been focusing more on the situation in Mumbai, so I hadn't heard much about Thailand's problems.

Here's the latest, from the AP:

Thai government removes national police chief

By AMBIKA AHUJA and CHRIS BLAKE

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- Thailand's prime minister demoted the national police chief Friday after thousands of protesters occupied the capital's airports in an anti-government campaign that has plunged the country into its worst political crisis in decades.
The demonstrators stormed Suvarnabhumi international airport on Tuesday and took over the smaller Don Muang domestic airport a day later. The capital remains completely cut off from air traffic, stranding thousands of travelers and dealing a severe blow to the economy and tourism industry.
Government spokesman Nattawut Sai-Kau said National Police Chief Gen. Pacharawat Wongsuwan was moved to an inactive post in the prime minister's office.
Nattawut declined to comment on the order, issued by Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.
The reason for Pacharawat's removal was not given, but some newspapers speculated he was not actively cooperating with the government to put an end to the crisis.
In a televised address to the nation late Friday, Somchai made no mention of Pacharawat except to say ''security forces will use peaceful means'' to end the crisis.
''There will be negotiations and whatever else which are appropriate in the situation,'' he said.
Despite his assurances, reporters saw a small buildup of forces near Suvarnabhumi airport. About 200 police, carrying riot gear and shields, were seen outside airport offices about 400 yards (meters) from the terminal where the protesters are camped out.
Dozens more police armed with assault rifles were deployed on the main road to the airport. Police set up barricades and checkpoints on all main roads leading to the airport, in an apparent attempt to prevent more people from joining the protest. Several police and fire trucks were parked in the area.
However, there was no sign of active preparations for any imminent raid.
The authorities have repeatedly said they will use force only as a last resort.
''We were instructed by the government not to use any violent force against protesters. We will definitely follow the instructions strictly,'' said Interior Minister Kowit Wattana, who supervises the police department.
At Don Muang airport, the Metropolitan Police issued a statement asking the protesters to leave immediately.
Bangkok police chief Lt. Gen. Suchart Maunkaew said police would issue a second statement later giving a deadline.
''If the protesters do not follow (the order), we may have no choice but to use tougher measures,'' he said, without elaborating.
The lack of use of force so far and the firing of the national police chief have raised doubts about whether Somchai has the support of the police and the army, a powerful institution that has traditionally played a key role in the country's politics.
Army commander Gen. Anupong Paochinda has thus far been neutral in the political turmoil, and even urged Somchai to call new elections, triggering speculation of a military coup.
The airport takeover capped months of demonstrations by the People's Alliance for Democracy, a loose coalition of various activists. They took over the prime minister's office three months ago, virtually paralyzing the government.
Since then Somchai had been working out of the former VIP lounge at Don Muang airport, but the airport siege forced him to move his government to the northern city of Chiang Mai.
The protesters say they won't give up until the government steps down.
''We are ready to defend ourselves against any government operations to get us out,'' said Parnthep Wongpuapan, an alliance spokesman.
An air of festivity enveloped the protesters camped out at the ultramodern Suvarnabhumi airport. Some women stir-fried vegetables in large woks on open propane gas stoves next to metal vats of iced juice.
''We need the food so people bring it. But we are not enjoying it even though it may look like a festival,'' Lek Kriengkrairut, a 58-year-old construction contractor, said as she ate an ice-cream cone. She said she brought 200 blankets and 480 towels to give away.
The alliance's protest grew out of its hatred of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a brother-in-law of Somchai. Thaksin was ousted in a bloodless military coup in September 2006 after months of protests by the alliance.
It accused Thaksin and his allies of corruption and abuse of power. Thaksin is in exile, a fugitive from a conviction for violating a conflict of interest law. The group says Somchai is a Thaksin puppet and should go.
The political crisis has battered the stock market, spooked foreign investors and dealt a serious blow to the tourism industry.
The Bangkok Post newspaper quoted experts as saying the damage from the airport shutdown could range between $3.7 billion and $6 billion if the standoff extends to December.

This, from American Airlines:

No Need to Print Out and Present Paper Boarding Pass at Security or Gate; Simply Show Barcode on Mobile Phone or PDA

Available Today in Chicago; Next Week in Los Angeles and Orange County, Calif.

FORT WORTH, Texas - American Airlines customers departing from select airports today can choose to receive their boarding passes electronically on their mobile phones or PDAs, saving the time it takes to print out and present a paper boarding pass at the airport.

Mobile boarding passes, which use a two-dimensional (2-D) barcode, are being introduced today for passengers departing on domestic flights from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. On Nov. 17, mobile boarding passes will be offered as an option for customers departing on domestic flights from Los Angeles International (LAX) and John Wayne Orange County (SNA) airports as well.

The mobile boarding pass program is being rolled out in partnership with the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA). If successful in trial cities, it could be extended to additional U.S. airports in the coming months.

To use the mobile boarding pass option - either with the traditional desktop version of AA.com or the mobile version - customers must have an active e-mail address where their boarding pass may be sent and an Internet-enabled mobile device where the 2-D barcode can be received. Additionally, during the introduction of this new feature, customers may list only one person in their reservation and must be traveling on American or American Eagle nonstop or same-plane direct to a domestic destination from Chicago, Los Angeles or Orange County. Domestic destinations include those within the 50 United States, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The mobile boarding pass process is simple: When customers check in for their flight using American's Web site, AA.com - either the desktop or mobile versions - they have the option to receive their boarding passes on their cell phones or PDAs. If this option is selected, they will get an e-mail with an Internet link to their boarding pass. The mobile boarding pass contains a 2-D barcode that can be scanned at TSA security checkpoints and at American Airlines gates. At the airport, customers simply scan their cell phone or PDA screen when going through Security (proper identification must be presented) and when boarding, just as they would a traditional paper boarding pass.

Customers wishing to check bags can also use the new option by scanning the boarding pass on their cell phone or PDA screen at American Airlines self-service machines, ticket counters, or curbside check-in facilities.

Customers who check in online and wish to print a paper boarding pass are still able to do so. At the end of the online check-in process on AA.com, customers can now choose how they would like to receive their boarding pass by selecting either "Print" (customers can print the pass at that time, or use a self-service check-in machine to print at the airport), "E-mail for Print" (boarding pass is emailed and customers can print at their convenience), or "E-mail for use on Cell Phone or Other Device" (customers receive an electronic boarding pass via email on their cell phone or mobile device, which would then be presented at the airport).

"Mobile boarding via AA.com is the latest way American Airlines is making travel as easy and convenient as possible, especially for our customers on the go," said Mark DuPont, American's Vice President - Airport Services Planning. "Customers who choose this option can bypass printing a boarding pass at their home, office or even at the airport to board their plane. They can go straight to Security and then to the aircraft."

Click here for more information on mobile boarding passes on American Airlines, including instructions on how to use the new system.

Delta adds baggage fee

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Delta Air LInes has jumped on the baggage fee bandwagon, announcing it will impose a $15 fee to check a first bag, the Associated Press reported. The fee takes effect Dec. 5 and applies to customers flying within the U.S.

Have a second bag that needs checking? That one'll cost you $25.

Delta passengers flying in first or biz class, including SkyMiles Medalion members and WorldPerks Elite members, will be able to check up to three bags for free.

The good news: Delta has scrapped its $25-$100 fuel surcharges assessed for SkyMiles and Northwest's World Perks award ticket travel originating from the U.S. and Canada. (Delta recently took over Northwest.)

As for curbside check in, Delta said it will drop the $3 fee it had been charging as of Dec. 5.


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In today's paper I wrote about a fantastic 21-mile walk around Geneva Lake.

I can't recommend this walk enough, especially if you like to challenge yourself by spending 8 or so hours on your feet.

All that exercise left me incredibly sore -- and hungry. I had a massage at the Abbey Resort's Avani Spa to take care of the sore part. And I had a great dinner at a classic Wisconsin supper club to take care of the hungry part. The restaurant is called Duck Inn, and it's in nearby Delevan, (608) 883-6988. It's got the wood paneling, tons of fake ducks all over the place, baskets of crackers on the tables....you get the idea.

Duck Inn has some great steak and fish for equally great prices. It was just what I needed to fill up the fuel tank after circumnavigating Wisconsin's fourth-deepest lake.

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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