Apichart Weerawong/AP
Ousted Thailand Prime Minsiter
Somchai Wongsawat

Thai Protests End as Court Bans PM, Dissolves Ruling Party

December 02, 2008 11:51 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Thailand’s high court has banned Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat from politics for five years, creating new havoc in a country already beset by years of political crisis.

Thai Prime Minister Banned From Politics

Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled Tuesday that Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat leave office after serving for only two and a half months, and ordered that his ruling People’s Power Party be disbanded on Tuesday.

The court decision has spurred the People’s Alliance for Democracy, which has been protesting against the government for months, to end all rallies and their occupation of the country’s main airport, Suvarnabhumi International.

The ruling also states that two other political parties from the governing coalition must be dissolved for engaging in fraud during last December’s election.

Elections for a new prime minister will be held on Dec. 8, while Deputy Prime Minister Chavarat Chamvirakul serves as the country’s interim leader.

The ruling party is expected to switch to a “shell” party for the elections, and local reports indicate that a list of 20 possible successors has already been created by Somchai’s party, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Somchai had replaced Samak Sundaravej as prime minister after a court decision booted Samak from office for accepting pay from a TV cooking show he hosted while serving as prime minister. Samak, in turn, had replaced fugitive former leader Thaksin Shinawatra. Somchai, the former senior deputy prime minister in Samak’s cabinet, is the brother-in-law of Thaksin.

Despite the end of the protests, it is clear that the conflict between the antigovernment demonstrators and Thaksin’s supporters ahas not come to any resolution, and the future of the country is still very much in doubt.

“The court decision left Thais wondering whether anyone can emerge to lead a country dangerously adrift as the occupation of two airports cripples the nation’s once-lucrative tourism industry, rival camps or protesters threaten each other, and rumors circulate of a looming military coup,” reports the Times.

Background: Thai protests escalating

In November, Thai protesters led by the People’s Alliance for Democracy marched through Bangkok and successfully stopped the parliament from the convening.

Protesters left the prime minister’s cabinet office, where they had been since August, and spread though the city. Police indicated that about 18,000 people participated in the demonstration, and House speaker Chai Chidchob said that parliament would not discuss the legislation.

“The PAD has led a six-month campaign aiming to topple the government elected in December, accusing it of being a proxy of exiled former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006,” Agence France-Presse reports.

The office of Thailand’s prime minister had been barricaded since late August, and protesters said they weren’t going anywhere until the changes they are demanding for the country’s government are made. The country had experienced considerable chaos, after changing prime ministers and encountering bitter public arguments over who was best equipped to lead the country.

Rural voters carry considerable clout in Thailand. However, leaders of the antigovernment protest have called rural voters “misguided and ignorant,” according to the International Herald Tribune. Only a small percentage of the population actually lives in Bangkok, but protesters want to change representation in parliament to favor urban and middle-class elites there.

“That’s not democracy,” Sawai Marongrit, a farmer, told the International Herald Tribune. “They can’t win, so they try to find another way to fight. Because if we have an election, they’ll lose again.”

On Sept. 17, Somchai Wongsawat, a relative of fugitive former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, replaced Thailand’s ousted former prime minister, Samak Sundaravej. Somchai, the former senior deputy prime minister in Samak’s cabinet, is the brother-in-law of Thaksin.

After Somchai was chosen as prime minister, leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, which took over the Government House in protest of Samak’s rule several weeks ago, said that they do not support Somchai due to his ties with Thaksin. Samak was given the boot for hosting cooking shows while in office.

Related Topics: Thai violence; political advice in the stars


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