Thai PM barred from politics, three parties dissolved

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Today's ruling from Thailand's Constitutional Court sees the Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat, removed from office, barred from politics, and the People's Power Party (PPP) dissolved. The allegations leading to this were of vote buying in the last election.

The decision has already eased tension in the country, with the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) announcing they will end their siege of Bangkok's two main international airports. Red-shirted pro-government protesters were dismayed at the court's decision. Initially they blockaded the Constitutional Court buildings to try and prevent the case being heard; following its relocation they moved on to the Administrative Court to protest a decision they claim is anti-democratic.

In addition to the PPP being disbanded and outlawed, two other parties in the ruling coalition were found guilty. The Chart Thai and Matchimathipataya parties were also outlawed and, between the three parties, 109 members barred from all involvement in the electoral process - including the right to vote. Among those disenfranchised were three ex-Prime Ministers. Those remaining from the executive of the outlawed parties have stated their intention to reform under a new name and attempt to continue in government.

Should those not disbarred hold a general election or, as reported, try to carry on in government?

Prior to the PAD announcing that their airport blockades would end, another grenade attack at one of the airports killed one and injured around 20 other protesters. Yesterday saw the PAD announce plans to abandon the Government House compound they have occupied since August. Following numerous grenade attacks on their encampment there, they elected to move to the airport protest sites and leave what has become a regular target; it is expected to take until Thursday to remove all belongings accumulated at the key site since the August invasion.

Somchai, brother-in-law to the fugitive ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra, has been a target of the PAD since he assumed the office following his predecessor being ousted over a conflict of interest issue. The PPP and Somchai are seen as a proxy for Thaksin and his banned Thai Rak Thai party, which the military overthrew in a bloodless coup in 2006.

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