A court has ruled that the Thai prime minister, his party and his coalition partners are banned from politics. As Ron Corben reports from Bangkok, the decision led the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy to pledge to allow flights to resume at Bangkok's international airport.
The People's Alliance for Democracy says it will continue some protests at the international airport, but on Tuesday agreed to allow flights to resume. However, airport officials say it could be several days before full operations resume.
Court ruling disbands 3 coalition parties
The PAD decision came hours after a Thai constitutional court disbanded the three leading parties in the government coalition.
A judge read the order banning the Chart Thai Party, one of the coalition partners.
The verdicts were announced, under strict security, after the judges were forced to move to another building after the constitutional court was surrounded by pro-government demonstrators.
The ruling follows court findings that the main coalition party, the People Power Party, Chart Thai and another partner, violated election laws during the December 2007 general elections. Several executives from each party also were banned from politics for five years.
Ruling removes PM Somchai from office
The verdict removes Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat from office. A PPP spokesman says party members in parliament not directly affected by the ruling will join a new party that already has been created.
Deputy Prime Minister Chavarat Charnveerakul has been named interim prime minister until a new coalition government is formed and a new prime minister can be selected.
Government supporters say judiciary staged 'silent coup'
Pro-government supporters have accused the judiciary of bias and staging a "silent coup" against Mr. Somchai and his brother-in-law, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The PAD calls the verdict a victory, following months of long protests, including a three-month siege of the main government office building.
"Today, the constitution court finally dissolved the party that acted as a nominee for Thaksin Shinawatra," said Parnthep Pourpongpan, a PAD spokesman. "We have to consider about the victory. We totally agree that at least we have to review the level of demonstration now at least about how we reduce and how much we reduce."
Protests strand tourists
Thailand's tourism industry and air cargo have been severely disrupted by the airport occupation, leading to hundreds of millions of dollars in lost income. It is estimated that up to a quarter of a million tourists remain stranded because of the occupation.
Soon after the ruling, the government postponed a summit of Southeast Asian leaders, which was to start December 13.