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December 2, 2008

Thailand Political Stalemate:
More chaos feared after court dissolution of ruling party

Thailand's government has been disbanded and the Prime Minister barred from politics for five years in a court ruling that has prompted fears of a slide into civil war, reported the UK Times on its website.

The ruling has been widely expected but it has renewed fears of violence and caused some to question whether the country has a functioning government any more.

According to local media reports, Chavarat Charnveerakul, a deputy prime minister was appointed acting prime minister a few hours after the ruling. Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat has stepped, along with 36 other. executives from his People Power Party.

 “My duty is over. I am now an ordinary citizen,” Somchai, 61, said in the northern city of Chiang Mai from where he has been governing since the airport blockade began.

The judgment could set the stage for the protesters to end their weeklong airports siege. Earlier today, cargo flights resumed from the main international hub.

The ruling came as hundreds of red-shirted pro-government supporters demonstrated noisily outside the court. They have already declared the ruling against the (PPP) as a "coup in disguise".

But the decision was greeted with delight by the militant People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) who have been trying to topple Somchai's government for months.

They have occupied Government House since August as well as the airports in a last ditch bid to topple Somchai, whom they accuse of being a pawn for his brother-in-law, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The ruling on allegations of vote fraud in the December 2007 election will not necessarily mean a snap election as many PPP MPs will simply switch to a new “shell” party already set up.

Under the Thai constitution, most MPs can keep their seats under another party name, and have promised to form another government.

Meanwhile, 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 added: “Does Thailand have a functioning government?”

Earlier, an anti-government protester was killed at a Bangkok airport.
Local television reported that a grenade had been fired at Don Mueang airport, the capital's domestic hub.

Despite the dissolution of the ruling party and Somchai’s departure, protesters said they would continue rallying at Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports and demanded the departure of the entire Cabinet.

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