Airport Siege Ended | INFJ Forum

Airport Siege Ended


Shai Gar

SMH said:
THAILAND'S main ruling party has been dismissed and the Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat, banned from politics for five years for electoral fraud in a dramatic turn in the country's increasingly bloody political crisis.

Anti-Government protesters agreed last night to end the siege of Bangkok's main international airport in response to Mr Somchai's dismissal. Airport officials said it could be open for flights by Friday, the 81st birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Cargo flights were to start leaving the airport early today. All the protesters would have vacated the airport by 10am today, officials said after meeting protest leaders. No mention was made of Don Muang, the domestic airport that has been shut for more than a week.

Hundreds of Government supporters reacted angrily to the Constitutional Court's ruling yesterday against Mr Somchai's People Power Party, blockading the court and shouting abuse at judges who were protected by a cordon of riot police with bulletproof shields.

Mr Somchai's ousting was a key goal of royalist anti-Government protesters who have blockaded Bangkok's airports for more than a week, crippling the country's economy and stranding hundreds of thousands of tourists.

Protesters cheered when they heard about the court's verdict but showed no intention of leaving the airports.

Government MPs vowed to remain united and regroup under a new name and propose a new prime minister to parliament, describing the court's decision as a "judicial coup".

Anticipating the decision, they had earlier established a new party, Pheu Thai (For Thais). "We will all move to Pheu Thai and seek a vote for a new prime minister on December 8," a Government MP, Jatuporn Prompan, said.

Mr Somchai, 61, said he accepted the verdict, which he had expected.

"My duty is over. I am now an ordinary citizen," he told reporters in Chiang Mai, where he has been holed up for days, too afraid to return to Bangkok.

A former judge, Mr Somchai is the brother-in-law of Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire former prime minister who is despised by the protesters. They believe he wants to end the monarchy and establish a republic.

The court dismissed 36 other officials in Mr Somchai's party over vote-rigging during elections last year. It also dismissed two minor parties in the six-party ruling coalition over voting fraud.

Chat Chonlaworn, head of the nine-judge panel, read the verdict on national television.

He appealed for calm, saying: "No matter whether you are satisfied or not with the verdict, we ask you to accept it."

Many Thais were hoping the king would suggest a resolution to the crisis. He made no mention of the crisis during a short speech at a military parade in Bangkok last night.

The king, though he has little formal power and rarely expresses his views in public, retains paramount influence across the country he has ruled since ascending the throne in 1946.

The anti-Government protesters in the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) remain defiant despite a bomb blast that killed one person and injured 22 others early yesterday.

Repeated bomb attacks have forced scores of anti-Government protesters from Mr Somchai's Bangkok office after a 98-day siege. They had joined the protesters at the two airports. Analysts fear the deadlock could erupt into widespread violent clashes between the yellow-wearing anti-Government protesters and the pro-Government "red shirts".

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor of politics at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, said that, having absorbed many blows in recent months, Government supporters in the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) could lash out.

"When exercised, its wrath will be ferocious," he said. "In the event UDD columns turn on the PAD in full force and take matters into their own hands, widespread civil strife would ensue."

The influential English-language newspaper Bangkok Post warned yesterday that "it now seems that violence cannot be avoided". "Some even predict what has been unthinkable for 700 years: a civil war."

Military leaders have called for the feuding sides to end their dispute before the king's birthday as a show of respect.

YAY!! Democracy at work.