Page last updated at 07:49 GMT, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Thai demonstrators leave airports


Protesters pack up and leave the airports

Anti-government protesters have left Bangkok's main airports after an eight-day siege that has paralysed government and stymied tourism.

They packed up bedding before handing over both the international and domestic airports to the authorities.

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) called off the protests after a court banned Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat from politics.

As protesters left, the first flight for a week arrived at Bangkok.

A Thai Airways flight carrying 305 passengers from the southern resort island of Phuket touched down at Suvarnabhumi airport at 1415 local time (0715 GMT).

International flights are due to resume on Thursday.

The protests have left thousands of tourists stranded in Thailand.

The BBC's Jonathan Head, in Bangkok, says the lifting of the blockade at the international airport felt like the end of a giant party, as yellow-clad protesters piled their belongings on to buses and headed home.

Some lined up for souvenir autographs from their leaders in front of the giant terminal building, our correspondent adds.


The PAD had been demanding the resignation of the prime minister, who they say is a proxy for deposed leader Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Somchai, who has been waiting out the siege in the northern city of Chiang Mai, says his allies will be forming a caretaker government with a new leader shortly.

September 2006: Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ousted in military coup
February 2008: Samak Sundaravej sworn in as prime minister
August 2008: PAD protesters occupy government buildings, demanding the government step down
September 2008: Mr Samak dismissed for violating conflict of interest law. Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin's brother-in-law, becomes prime minister
October 2008: Thaksin given a two-year jail sentence for corruption in his absence
26 November 2008: Anti-government protesters take control of Bangkok's main airport
2 December 2008: Thai court rules that PM Somchai should be banned from politics, and his party should be dissolved
3 December 2008: Protesters vacate Bangkok airports

The Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday that the three parties in the ruling coalition must disband. Each of them has since been re-formed under new names.

The same Constitutional Court deposed a pro-Thaksin government in September - that of Samak Sundaravej.

The PAD insisted on fighting on against allies of Mr Thaksin.

This time, although Mr Somchai's allies plan to field a new government, the PAD is claiming victory.

Correspondents say the airport blockade was becoming increasingly unpopular, so that Tuesday's court ruling against Mr Somchai offered a face-saving moment for the protesters to back down.

But the divisions that caused the protests remain, correspondents say.

"The PAD will return if another (Thaksin) proxy government is formed or anyone tries to amend the constitution or the law to whitewash some politicians or to subdue the monarch's royal authority," one of the protest leaders, Sondhi Limthongkul, said on Tuesday night.

Chaturon Chaisaeng, a former Thaksin Cabinet member, suggested there could be civil war if the protest alliance presses for a non-elected government.

"Why do we still condone the PAD, who are waging terrorist attacks against government buildings and the democratic system? Do all Thai people have to bow to the PAD's orders and demands?"

The airport closures have left more than 300,000 tourists stranded in Thailand and cost the economy huge amounts in lost revenues.

At least six people have been killed over six months of protests and scores have been injured.

Reporters said the image of the country has taken a battering.

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