Thai protesters end airport siege

Anti-government protesters declare victory after court forces PM to resign.

    Protesters have been campaigning for months to topple the government [GALLO/GETTY]

    Cleaning up

    Saisuri Pantupradij, a 45-year-old woman who had been camped out at Suvarnabhumi, said "it's sad to say goodbye, but our job here is done, so we must go home".

    "It's sad to say goodbye, but our job here is done, so we must go home"

    Saisuri Pantupradij,
    protester at Suvarnabhumi

    Protesters were seen cleaning up the airport terminal.

    "We want to clean up the airport before we leave. We want PAD to have a good image," said Bow Piyapat, a souvenir maker, as she wielded her mop around rows of check-in counters at Suvarnabhumi.

    The PAD occupied Suvarnabhumi and the smaller Don Muang domestic airport last week, stranding 350,000 passengers and causing massive damage to the Thai economy.

    Airport operators say some passenger flights should be up and running again by Friday.

    PAD 'victory'

    Chat Chalavorn, the head of the nine-judge panel, said the court dissolved Somchai's People Power party (PPP), the Chart Thai party and the Machima Thipatai party "to set a political standard and an example".

    Many of the protesters have already left Bangkok's main airport [AFP]
    He also said that "dishonest political parties undermine Thailand's democratic system. The court had no other option".

    Parnthep Pourpangan, a spokesman for the so-called People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) that has been spearheading the campaign to bring down the government for months, told Al Jazeera that the verdict by the constitutional court was a victory for the people.

    "We have been trying to protect the constitution, and the PPP have been trying to amend it to put forward their interests," he said.

    Critics say the PAD is neither populist nor democratic since it is trying to abolish the one-man, one-vote system in favour of a system where only 30 per cent of MPs are directly elected by the people and the rest appointed.

    Party to regroup

    Minutes after Tuesday's court ruling, the PPP said members would regroup under a new party banner and propose a new prime minister.

    Kudeb Saikrachang, a PPP spokesman, said the verdict had been expected and predetermined.

    "We have known beforehand that this verdict would be announced, it is not a new development," he said.

    The ousted ruling party said the court's decision was a judicial coup [AFP]
    "They [the courts] had a plan to destroy Thai Rak Thai party and now it is the PPP. The public are well aware of this.

    "We want the people to understand the problems we are facing, and people will stand up, but this is another coup committed by the courts, and not by the military."

    The Thai Rak Thai party, which was similarly dissolved by a military-appointed constitutional tribunal in May last year and its leaders banned from politics, regrouped as the PPP soon after.

    Gothom Arya, a former electoral commissioner, said that the courts in Thailand have been "too involved in making political decisions".

    "This is not good for the courts, this type of political manoeuvring does not reflect well on the institutions, and it does provoke criticism and doubt as to how independent it can be," he said.

    Warning

    The yellow-shirted PAD supporters have been trying for months to force Somchai out, accusing him of being a proxy for Thaksin Shinawatra, the premier ousted in a 2006 coup and the original target of the anti-government campaign.

    "The PAD will return if another [Thaksin] proxy government is formed or anyone tries to amend the constitution or the law to whitewash some politicians or to subdue the monarch's royal authority"

    Sondhi Limthongkul,
    PAD protest leader

    Thaksin, who is Somchai's brother-in-law, is in exile after leaving the country to escape facing corruption charges.

    The protesters warned that they would return to the streets if political change does not occur.

    "The PAD will return if another [Thaksin] proxy government is formed or anyone tries to amend the constitution or the law to whitewash some politicians or to subdue the monarch's royal authority," Sondhi Limthongkul, one of the protest leaders, warned on Tuesday night.

    Somchai, for his part, said the court ruling was "not a problem".

    "I was not working for myself. Now I will be a full-time citizen," he told reporters following the ruling.

    Suparak Nakboonnam, a government spokesman, said Chaowarat Chandeerakul, the deputy prime minister, will become the caretaker prime minister and parliament would have to pick a new prime minister within 30 days.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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