Haj Blocked

November 28th, 2008 by admin

More than 5,000 Thai Muslim pilgrims had planned to make the haj but are unable to leave since the PAD forced the shutdown of the airport on Tuesday.

By Wichayant Boonchote

A senior Islamic official has begged the People’s Alliance for Democracy to allow Muslims to board aircraft at Suvarnabhumi airport so they can join the annual haj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

Pridi Chueaphudee, adviser to the Chularatchamontri, the leader of Thailand’s Islamic community, and the Central Islamic Committee of Thailand, said the annual pilgrimage to Mecca was spiritually important to all Muslim people.

An airport blockade could send a wrong message of religious intolerance to Saudi Arabia.

More than 5,000 Thai Muslim pilgrims had planned to make the haj but are unable to leave since the PAD forced the shutdown of the airport on Tuesday.

About 450 pilgrims were left stranded at Suvarnabhumi airport and more than 200 at Hat Yai airport.

Mr Pridi said he would send a written appeal to Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda and the PAD.

Monday was the last day they could arrive in Saudi Arabia before the haj begins, he added. If Thai Muslims were unable to fly there in time it would harm relations between the two countries.

“On behalf of the Chularatchamontri and the CICT, I beg the PAD to understand the spiritual needs of Thai Muslims. We have nothing to do with any side. We maintain our neutrality and, above all, love our King.

“Some have sold their land for this once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage, and now they end up being stranded at the airport,” Mr Pridi said.

The director of Hat Yai airport, Wing Cdr Nat Homasawin, confirmed that more than 200 Muslim pilgrims were stranded at the airport because all flights were cancelled after the PAD took over the Suvarnabhumi airport terminal.

Representatives of haj-associated businesses yesterday submitted a letter to Kanaporn Apinontkul, the manager of Thai Airways International sales agency at Hat Yai, demanding a chartered flight to replace TG 8530 to Mecca, which has been cancelled.

They also demanded compensation for damages.

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