Thailand slips further into chaos as court dissolves government

TimeOnline

December 2, 2008

Anne Barrowclough

Thailand’s government has been disbanded and the Prime Minister barred from Anti-government protesters celebrate at the besieged Suvarnabhumi international airportpolitics for five years in a court ruling that has prompted fears of a slide into civil war.

The Constitutional Court was widely expected to find the government guilty of electoral fraud and order its dissolution, but its ruling has renewed fears of violence and caused some to question whether the country has a functioning government anymore.

Hours before the court hearing a grenade was fired from a flyover near the domestic airport hours, killing one anti-government protester and wounding 22 people.

The Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat, will now step down, along with 36 other executives from his People Power Party, achieving a key goal of royalist demonstrators who have blockaded the capital’s two airports for the past week.

The judgment could set the stage for the protesters to end their week-long airports siege. Earlier today, cargo flights resumed from the main international hub.

However, hopes that air traffic would quickly begin flowing again appeared to have been dashed this afternoon when the head of Thailand’s airports said that Suvarnabhumi international airport, Bangkok’s largest, would be closed to passenger flights until at least December 15 due to the disruption caused by protesters.

Acting director Serirat Prasutanont said that the country’s main airport has lost more $10 million due to the weeklong closure. His statement said that the closure of the airport for passenger flights “is extended to 6pm on December 15.”

The ruling that the government had to resign came as hundreds of red-shirted pro-government supporters demonstrated noisily outside the court. They have already declared the ruling against the (PPP) as a “coup in disguise”.

But it was greeted with delight by the militant People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) who have been trying to topple Mr Somchai’s government for months. They have occupied Government House since August as well as the airports in a last ditch bid to topple Mr Somchai, whom they accuse of being a pawn for his brother-in-law, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup and is now in exile after being convicted of corruption.

“My heart is happy. My friends are very happy,” said Pailin Jampapong, a 41-year-old Bangkok housekeeper choking back tears as she jumped up and down.

Nattawut Sai-kau, a government spokesman, said Mr Somchai and his six-party coalition would step down.

‘We will abide by the law. The coalition parties will meet together to plan for its next move soon,’ he said.

However, fears of violent clashes, or worse, are growing. “It now seems that violence cannot be avoided. Some even predict what has been unthinkable for 700 years: a civil war,” the Bangkok Post said in an editorial. It added: “Does Thailand have a functioning government?”

The ruling on allegations of vote fraud in the December 2007 election will not necessarily mean a snap election as many PPP MPs will simply switch to a new ‘shell’ party already set up.

The electoral fraud case was scheduled to be heard at the Constitutional Courthouse in Bangkok on Tuesday, but authorities moved it after hundreds of red-shirted government supporters surrounded the building.

The PAD blockade of the airports has stranded hundreds of thousands of tourists in Thailand, devastating the country’s tourist industry and threatening its fragile economy. The government confirmed today it would postpone the ASEAN summit of Asian leaders, due to take place in Thailand in mid December.

 

Have your say

Myself and my wife are due to fly to Bangkok for our honeymoon on Saturday and as yet have been given no concrete information from our tour operator on whether we can re-book to go elsewhere or fly to Thailand.
It seems perfectly obvious to me that things will not be sorted by Saturday!!

Andy, London, UK

Thai governments have always been corrupt, and come to think of it, where in the world is there NOT a corrupt government? Suranon may seem a prospective solution, but what a shame the country can’t be ruled by PraThep, who is incorruptible and the most loved by all, after her father. Make it happen!

Philipa Space, Koh Samui, Thailand

I’m determined to get out there, but what I thought was once paradise is now tainted. That all said and done, every national population should be entitled to a government embodied of fairness and equality. In a perfect world, that would be the fundamental building blocks of life!

Dan B, Stourbridge, England

Thomas Cooks believe that the problem will be sorted in 2 weeks????!!!!!!!!!……..and so there is no reason to cancel my holiday as yet.!!

kirk, Rotherham, UK

My uncle is in Thailand, here came off the cruise ship Diamond Princess with 400 other Brits.

They are coming home to Manchester airport via Dubai in 2 days

The Thai government is giving them 2000 bhats as compensation + the hotel is reducing the accomodation from 4300 to 3700 per night

Nicholas Iles, Oswestry, Shropshire, United Kingdom

The Government is subject to the Law? It would never catch on here.

Frank Upton, Solihull,

Civil war is still unthinkable here. The Bangkok Post would agree with me, despite saying ‘some’ would not. Thais want normality in their lives and want everything to get back to normal. Any violence will be short lived, thank goodness. I have been a resident of Bankok for 8 years and hope to stay!

P. Howarth, Bangkok, Thailand

Here we go again. TRT became PPP now PPP will become another three letter acronym for further corruption.

A small victory, but the game remains the same and representative goverment for Thailand is as elusive as ever.

Military government may actually be the fairest and most democratic solution

Dan, London, UK

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