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Bomb kills one at Thai airport; court hears key case
Mon Dec 1, 2008 10:57pm EST
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By Nopporn Wong-Anan
BANGKOK (Reuters) - A grenade killed an anti-government protester at Bangkok's blockaded Don Muang airport on Tuesday, hours before a vote fraud case that could force the prime minister and much of his cabinet to resign.
Thai media said an M79 grenade was fired from a flyover near the domestic airport, occupied along with the main international airport by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in its escalating campaign to topple the government.
Around 22 people were wounded in the airport attack shortly after midnight. An emergency services official said 17 had already been discharged from hospital.
The electoral fraud case was to have been heard at the Constitutional Court in Bangkok on Tuesday, but authorities moved it after hundreds of red-shirted government supporters surrounded the building.
A judge said the court would give its verdict against the second largest party in the coalition government later on Tuesday.
The Chart Thai party is one of three coalition partners facing possible dissolution over allegations of vote fraud in the December 2007 election. The judge did not say when verdicts on the other two parties would be given.
The Constitutional Court has moved with uncharacteristic speed to wrap up the case and has decided there is no need to hear testimony in support of the defendants.
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 also asked: "Does Thailand have a functioning government?"
That question will be even more pertinent if the court rules, as just about everyone expects, that three of the governing coalition parties were guilty of vote fraud in last December's election, and forces them to disband.
A PRE-JUDGED CASE
The People Power Party (PPP) of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said it would boycott the hearing as the court had "pre-judged" the outcome.
If the PPP and the two allied parties are dissolved, Somchai and other leaders would be barred from politics and many cabinet ministers would have to step down.
However, it will not necessarily mean a snap election as many PPP MPs will simply switch to a new "shell" party already set up. Continued...
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