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Thai court bans prime minister, ruling party from politics

The verdict came amid a confrontation between the ousted leader, Somchai, and antigovernment protesters occupying Bangkok's airports.

By Huma Yusuf / December 2, 2008

Thailand's constitutional court on Tuesday disbanded the ruling People Power Party (PPP) and two of its coalition partners for electoral fraud. The parties' leaders, including Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, have been banned from politics for five years. The announcement came hours after an antigovernment protester was killed at a Bangkok airport.

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A panel of judges found the PPP, the Chart Thai party – the second largest in the ruling coalition – and the Machima Thipatai party guilty of vote-buying and dissolved them, reports Agence France-Presse.

"As the court decided to dissolve the People Power Party, therefore the leader of the party and party executives must be banned from politics for five years," said Chat Chonlaworn, head of the nine-judge court panel.
"The court had no other option," he said.
The verdict came amid a confrontation between Somchai, the brother-in-law of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and anti-government protesters occupying Bangkok's airports.

According to the BBC, news of the PPP's dissolution angered government supporters. Earlier on Tuesday, before the court's verdict was announced, PPP supporters had forced the constitutional court to change the venue of its final hearing to the administrative courthouse.

Outside the court, where a large crowd of pro-government activists had gathered ... there was a furious reaction.
Prime Minister Somchai's supporters accused the judges of sabotaging democracy and going against the people's will.
Despite the presence of a large number of riot police, the protesters soon blocked all access to the building and vowed not to let the judges out....
The BBC's Jonathan Head, outside the courthouse, says the court's ruling will provoke anger right throughout the heartland of the government's supporters in the north and north-east.

Meanwhile, antigovernment protesters of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) celebrated the court's decision, reports The New York Times.

When the court decision was announced, demonstrators at the international airport wept and cheered at a makeshift stage outside the departure gates. "I'm glad, I feel relieved, its like something that we have been carrying is now gone," said Tonkla Maksuk, a volunteer nurse at the airport protest. "I feel that this is still a country of laws."

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