Protest plans disrupt subway and skytrain service

Blue Line service halted, 14 BTS stations closed but trains still running

Mass transit services in Bangkok were suspended or cut back on Saturday afternoon, apparently in response to anti-government protesters’ plans to stage more activities.

Bangkok Expressway and Metro Plc, the operator of the MRT Blue Line, suspended services from all stations on the line, starting from 12.30pm on Saturday. It gave no reason.

The MRT Purple Line system continues to operate as usual, “until there is a further announcement about a change. MRT Metro would like to apologise for any inconvenience,” the subway operator said on its MRT Bangkok Metro Facebook page.

The operator of the BTS Skytrain subsequently announced that 14 of its stations in central Bangkok would be closed from 2:30pm onward, citing the emergency decree imposed in the capital this week in an attempt to curtail protests.

BTS trains will still run but they won’t stop at the affected stations on the Sukhumvit and Silom lines. The 14 stations are Ari, Sanam Pao, Victory Monument, Phaya Thai, Ratchathewi, Siam, Chit Lom, Phloen Chit, Nana, Asok, Phrom Phong, National Stadium, Ratchadamri and Sala Daeng.

As well, the Phayathai station of the Airport Rail Link has been closed. Police also said access to Victory Monument and the Asok intersection would be cut off. Both sites are viewed as possible gathering places for demonstrators.

The moves were made in anticipation of a fourth consecutive day of protests in defiance of a government emergency decree. In social media posts on Saturday, organisers asked participants to board mass-transit trains at 3pm to prepare for an activity beginning at 4pm. However, the destination will not be announced until the very last minute.

Activists are trying to stay one step ahead of the authorities, who have been making strenuous efforts to stop them. On Friday, police laid razor wire across the Ratchaprasong intersection, where a huge rally had taken place on Thursday night, in anticipation of another gathering. The protesters adjusted quickly, shifting to the Pathumwan intersection, where police used water cannon to disperse a crowd of about 2,000.

The suspension of mass-transit services on Saturday drew harsh comments from many people who posted messages blaming the subway operator on its Facebook page.

The Blue Line, covering a distance of 48 kilometres, comprises 38 stations. It forms a loop around Bangkok and runs from Tha Phra north via Tao Poon, Bang Sue, Chatuchak Park and Lat Phrao in northern Bangkok before turning south to run via Phetchaburi and Sukhumvit roads along the eastern side of the city. The line turns west passing through Silom, Hua Lamphong, Tha Phra and Bang Wa to Lak Song.

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