By Pooky, this blog economics journalist
For some odd reasons, Thai Airways is cutting flight to 4 provincial cities that are strong-hold of the Red Shirts, even with high capacity utilization.
Only one Southern provincial city Nakorn Sri Thamaraj of the Democrat dominance had been cut. All in all 5 cities are on the chopping block.
“We have the highest traffic in Thailand and we wonder why we are being cut-off. The people of Udon will not accept this. We have posed this question to the Communications Ministry but got no answer. If this goes forward the people of Udon will protest,” said Vera, the Undon chambers of commerce head, to Matichon, a local Thai daily.
Udonthani International Airport, one of four others on the chopping block, capacity to Suvanaphum has the highest inter-Thailand traffic of all destinations. Other cities with strong Red Shirt presence, that were axed, include Mae Hongsorn, Ubon, and Pitsanulok.
Udon’s MPs are all from the opposition party of Puey Thai-and is considered the corner-stone of the Red Shirt in E-Sarn.
Thai Airways says those 5 cities are going on the chopping block because of losses made during the past 10 years periods.
Most Thai observers said the cut by Thai Airways, while they doubt was politically motivated, nevertheless, is very odd to be occurring in cities that the Red Shirt and other parties have fiercely fought over.
“They are trying to get the leaders of the cities to ask for help from the government, and that is very convenient for political firepower,” said Somjai, the leader of Udon’s Red Shirt club in a Red Shirt press.
Under the Democrat Party of Chuan’s time as the Thai prime minister, massive amount of funds were slated out to build-up provincial cities airports, as a way to stimulate tourism and raise provincial cities profile to international status.
That move by the Chuan government, was met with very strong objections as a wasteful spending of government budget, as back during Chuan’s time, there were little interest in flying to the province to support the airports.
Local Thai press back then, reported on massive lobbying and political favoritism in the selection of the locations for the airports.
The current head of Thai Airways is close to the current government of Abhisit, where the Ministry of Finance holds a great chunk of Thai Airways stock, that is listed in the local Thai market.
Thai Airways has been tainted by several scandal, including a board member who used the airline to import massive cargos into Thailand for personal profit, and a track record of government officials very excessive usage of freebies, like first class up-grades for government official children.
Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reports that the Thai government has ordered the deputy prime minister in charged of economics to find ways to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of Thailand, as one international ranking sees it falling 3-4 places under its management and another one saw it increased a place.