Court dissolves Thai government for election fraud
By AMBIKA AHUJA,Associated Press Writer AP - 57 minutes ago
BANGKOK, Thailand - The Constitutional Court dissolved Thailand's top three ruling parties for electoral fraud Tuesday and temporarily barred the prime minister from politics, bringing down a government that faced months of strident protests seeking its ouster.
The ruling set the stage for thousands of protesters to end their seige of the country's two main airports. Members of the People's Alliance for Democracy protest group at Bangkok's international airport cheered and hugged after they heard news of the verdict.
"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.
Government spokesman Nattawut Sai-kau said that Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and his ruling, 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 told The Associated Press.
He also said the government was postponing a regional summit in Thailand of Southeast Asian countries, from December to March.
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 with thumping majority.
Court President Chat Chalavorn said the court was dissolving the parties "to set a political standard and an example."
"Dishonest political parties undermine Thailand's democratic system," he said in the court's ruling.
The ruling sends Somchai and dozens of party executives into political exile, barring them from the country's politics for five years.
But other members of the three parties that escaped the ban can join other parties and try to cobble together a new coalition and choose a new prime minister.
It was expected that Somchai would remain the caretaker prime minister until then.
Thousands of members of the protest alliance have been the main Suvarnabhumi international airport and the domestic Don Muang airport for about a week, cutting off all commercial traffic to the capital and stranding more than 300,000 foreign travelers here.
At the Suvarnabhumi airport, the verdict was read out on a protest stage outside the main terminal.
"It is good because the (corrupt) politicians have been told to get out. It is good for Thailand. This is a blow for corruption," said Nong Sugrawut, a 55-year-old businessman who was among the thousands camped at Suvarnabhumi.
Politicians banned by the verdict refused to comment.
"The court just banned me and my party from political activity so I can't give you any comment," Kuthep Saikrajang, a spokesman of the People's Power Party, told The Associated Press.
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