Bangkok: A Thai court on Tuesday dissolved the ruling party and banned the premier from politics, plunging the kingdom into further uncertainty as an occupation of Bangkok’s airports turned increasingly bloody.
Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat - the target of the protesters’ wrath - will now have to step down, after the Constitutional Court ruled that his PPP should be disbanded because an executive was convicted of vote buying.
Somchai was banned from politics for five years, along with 36 other PPP executives, achieving a key goal of royalist anti-government protesters who have blockaded the capital’s two airports for a week.
Somchai has been marooned in the northern pro-government stronghold of Chiang Mai since Wednesday. He was due to attend a military ceremony later on Tuesday ahead of the king’s 5 December birthday.
He has so far made no comment on his party’s dissolution.
The judge read the order live 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.”
About 500 angry government supporters massed outside the administrative court, where judges read the ruling after earlier rallies by the group forced them to change location.
Riot police with bullet-proof shields stood guard, as tensions in Thailand remained on the brink with the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) continuing their week-long crippling airport siege.
The ruling came after a blast early on Tuesday killed one protester and injured 22 others from the rival PAD at the domestic Don Mueang airport. He died from shrapnel wounds to the stomach, an emergency services spokeswoman said.
It also came just hours after the royalist PAD ended a three-month sit-in at the prime minister’s offices in Bangkok following a series of similar attacks, and redeployed supporters to Don Mueang and the Suvarnabhumi international airport.
The PAD launched its campaign in late May, accusing the government of acting as a proxy for Thaksin - Somchai’s brother-in-law - and of being hostile to the monarchy.
The PAD, who dress in yellow which they say symbolises their devotion to Thailand’s much-revered king, are backed by the Bangkok business elite and middle classes, along with elements in the military and the palace.
Thaksin, whose supporters dress in red, is hugely popular with Thailand’s rural and urban poor, especially in the north, his native area.
Two of the PPP’s coalition partners are also facing dissolution because some of their executives were convicted of vote fraud after elections in December 2007 - the first since a 2006 coup ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.