Demonstrators revel as Thai court ousts government

  • Article by: SETH MYDANS and THOMAS FULLER , New York Times
  • Updated: December 2, 2008 - 8:25 PM

Protesters plan to end their weeklong blockade of Bangkok's two main airports today.

BANGKOK, THAILAND - Thailand's high court disbanded the ruling party for electoral fraud and brought down the government on Tuesday, prompting anti-government protesters to declare an end to their debilitating weeklong blockade of Bangkok's airports.

Leaders of the disbanded People's Power Party said they would reconstitute the government under another party name and hold on to power, although the count of parliamentary votes was not assured.

But the protesters -- who had also occupied the prime minister's office for more than three months, calling for the ouster of the government -- said they would end all their blockades by this morning.

The demonstrators, largely drawn from the elite and middle class, have been protesting for three years against leadership that they said remained loyal to Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister ousted in a coup in September 2006.

At Suvarnabhumi International Airport, the reaction when the court's ruling was announced was euphoric. Demonstrators cheered outside the departure area, where hundreds of people had set up camps.

"We will party all night long before leaving tomorrow," said Saisuri Pantupradij, a 45-year-old woman who camped out at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport. "It's sad to say goodbye, but our job here is done. So we must go home."

It was not clear when passenger and cargo service would resume at the enormous and normally busy international airport and a smaller domestic hub, Don Muang Airport, but the damage to Thailand's agricultural export trade and tourist industry has been deep. Tens of thousands of foreign travelers were stranded.

The easing of the national crisis came three days before the 81st birthday of Thailand's venerated monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, an occasion on which he is expected to make his annual address to the nation.

However, the threat of violence continued, with fears building of a possible backlash by government supporters. For the most part, the protests have proceeded peacefully, but an explosion at Don Muang early Tuesday killed one protester.

A unanimous ruling by the Constitutional Court found Somchai's People's Power Party, the Machima Thipatai Party and the Chart Thai Party guilty of committing fraud in the December 2007 elections that brought the coalition to power. It also forced out Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin's brother-in-law.

Until a new government is formed, Deputy Prime Minister Chawarat Chanweerakun is to act as interim prime minister.

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    Tuesday December 2, 2008

    Sept. 19, 2006: Military stages bloodless coup while Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is in New York.

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