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Thai PM resigns

world Updated: Dec 02, 2008 23:11 IST

Thailand’s prime minister Somchai Wongsawat resigned on Tuesday after the country’s constitutional court outlawed the three ruling parties for electoral fraud, with ecstatic anti-government protesters announcing the end of siege on the two main airports here.

It was “not a problem. I was not working for myself. Now I will be a full-time citizen,” Somcahi told reporters in the northern city of Chiang Mai after the country’s Constitutional Court’s verdict that barred him from politics for five years.

Somchai abandoned a cabinet meeting after the court in the capital, Bangkok, ordered the dissolution of country’s top three ruling parties for electoral fraud. A government spokesman said that Premier and his entire cabinet would step down.

The court said “dishonest political parties undermine Thailand’s democratic system.”

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi international airport, under siege from anti-government activists for a week, has reopened to cargo flights. “As of this moment the PAD (People’s Alliance for Democracy) has allowed flights to take off and land immediately, both passenger and cargo flights,” senior alliance member Somkiat Pongpaiboon told reporters here.

The main airport and the domestic airport Don Muang have been taken over by the protesters since a week now and no flights have landed or taken off with more than 300,000 passengers waiting to leave Thailand.

Meanwhile the head of Thai airports said that Suvarnabhumi international airport will remain closed for passenger flights until December 15 due to disruptions caused as a result of protests. As of this morning, cargo flights were allowed to land at the international airport.

“We have reached an agreement with PAD to start clearing protesters from the passenger zone to reopen Suvarnabhumi Airport,” Chairman of the board of Airports of Thailand, Vudhihaandhu Vichairatama said.

“But how soon depends on technical issues. If there is no technical problem the first flights would resume within 24 hours,” he said.

Thai economy has been losing upto $85 million a day due to the standstill of operations at the airports. The country’s tourism sector has been hit hard with thousands of tourists desperate to go back home.

The ruling may see an end to the protests by activists of the People’s Alliance for Democracy which has been calling for Somachai’s resignation calling him a stooge and puppet of former premier Thaksin Shinawatara, who is on the run.
Thailand also said the ASEAN summit to be held later this month in Chiangmai would be postponed to March next year.

Commenting on the court ruling Somchai said “It is not a problem. I was not working for myself. Now I will be a full-time citizen.”

The premier has been operating his cabinet from the northern city of Chiangmai where he had landed after returning from the APEC summit in Peru last week.

Somchai’s People’s Power Party, the Machima Thipatai party and the Chart Thai party were found guilty of committing fraud in the December 2007 elections that brought the coalition to power.