Thai protesters to end siege as PM ousted

Demonstrators said they would end their siege at Bangkok's major airport after Thailand's top court banned the prime minister from public office for five years and dissolved his ruling party after finding it committed electoral fraud, CNN reported.

Anti-government protesters celebrate court decision against ruling party at Suvarnabhumi airport.

The decision, which effectively dissolves Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat's government, follows months of opposition protests in Bangkok that have driven government officials from their offices and shut down the city's major airport for a week.

The Consitutional Court also banned at least one of the People Power Party's ruling coalition partners, effectively dismantling the government over allegations of vote-rigging.

Protesters said the siege of the airport would end on Wednesday morning. Passenger flights remained grounded, but cargo, military and emergency flights had resumed by Tuesday afternoon at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi international airport, spokeswoman Monrudee Kettuphan said.

Members of the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy, occupying Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi international airport, cheered and hugged on hearing the news.

"My heart is happy. My friends are very happy," Pailin Jampapong, a 41-year-old Bangkok housekeeper, told The Associated Press as she jumped up and down.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Somchai's supporters staged an angry counter-protest outside the court following the decision.

Jakrapob Penkair, a Somchai ally and former government official, told CNN a deputy prime minister from one of the remaining coalition parties would take over from Somchai until the parliament could approve a new government.

"The PPP is a responsible party," he said. "Our government and the people have been concerned with the country before ourselves."

Demonstrators have occupied Thailand's Government House since August, forcing lawmakers to meet elsewhere.

They said Monday that they would end the sit-in and move to Suvarnabhumi airport, where they have left flights grounded and countless passengers stranded since November 25. Video Watch more about the travel chaos "

"We wish we hadn't come here at all," said Keri Gannam, a visitor from the United States, who was honeymooning in Thailand. "It's just stressful. It's taken away everything... I'm supposed to have job interviews. I missed them."

"Money isn't flowing in for us," said her husband, Andy. "And we came here to take a couple of relaxing weeks -- something both of us had earned. And it's turned out being a disaster, basically." Are you stuck in Thailand?

Tuesday's ruling by the court is the second time in three months it has removed a prime minister from the PPP, which took office after elections in December 2007.

The court also dissolved two of the PPP's coalition partners and barred more than 30 other PPP officials from public office over allegations of vote-rigging.

The People's Alliance for Democracy accuses Somchai of leading a proxy government for his brother-in-law, ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

Thaksin returned to Thailand after the PPP victory in 2007, but fled the country again just as he was to appear in a corruption case against him.

Somchai himself has been avoiding the capital, choosing instead to stay in the northern city of Chiang Mai.

The anti-government protesters want Thaksin extradited and tried on those charges. It also accuses the PPP government of wanting to amend the constitution so Thaksin does not have to face charges.

Protesters at Suvarnabhumi, where about 60,000 tourists pass through every day, granted two small concessions on Monday to help alleviate the misery of travelers. Authorities have estimated 100,000 passengers have been stranded at Suvarnabhumi since the siege began.

By Monday afternoon, 37 aircraft had left Suvarnabhumi. All but one airplane, which flew empty to Shanghai, landed at the U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield, about 140 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of Bangkok, airport spokeswoman Monrudee Gettuphan said.


From there, travelers can try to catch a flight home.

A convoy of buses, carrying Muslim pilgrims stranded at Suvarnabhumi since last Tuesday, was also allowed to leave for the naval base. From there they can make their trip to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, a pilgrimage that Islam requires all able-bodied Muslims to make at least once in their lifetime.

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