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Page last updated at 10:47 GMT, Friday, 5 December 2008

Bangkok airport resumes operation

Western tourists are offered respect by Thai children in traditional dress
Dancers and puppeteers welcomed tourists to Suvarnabhumi on Friday

Thailand's main international airport has officially resumed full operations after an eight-day occupation by anti-government protesters.

Most airlines are now operating a normal service, but thousands of passengers still face long delays as the backlog is cleared.

The protest ended when a court banned Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat from politics and dissolved his party.

Meanwhile Thais are celebrating the 81st birthday of their revered king.

Bangkok's streets are decorated with buntings, flags and portraits of the royal family, and Friday has been declared a public holiday.

But in an unexpected move, King Bhumibol Adulyadej did not give his traditional pre-birthday speech to the nation on Thursday.

Crown Prince Varjiralongkorn went on the radio instead to say his father was a "little sick", and on Friday the palace issued a statement saying the king was suffering from a fever and was being given liquid food.

Thais had been looking forward to hearing from their much-loved monarch, who has long been looked to for guidance in times of turmoil.

'Smooth resumption'

The most recent focus of that turmoil was the takeover of two airports outside Bangkok.

The protesters - from the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) - camped there for more than a week to force the prime minister to resign, stranding thousands of travellers as all air traffic was stopped.

After the Constitutional Court ruling to bar Mr Somchai from politics, and dissolve his party, they finally agreed to leave.

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Passengers wait for flights at Thailand's main airport

Flights have been leaving the main Suvarnabhumi airport since Wednesday, but Friday was the first day of normal service.

Monks stand in front of a large portrait of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 5th Dec

"Suvarnabhumi has officially resumed operations. All of the staff here are so happy to return to work," an Airports of Thailand spokeswoman said.

"Thai Airways TG971 bound for Moscow officially marked the full and smooth resumption of the airport."

There were puppet shows and dance performances to inject an air of celebration, says the BBC's John Sudworth in Bangkok.

However, hundreds of passengers are still facing uncertainty about when they can return home as not all airlines are operating a full service.

There are still a large number of cancelled flights and those that have been scheduled are very overbooked.

Some passengers are being told that it may take as much as another week before they can be guaranteed a seat.

While the situation for stranded passengers is gradually being resolved, the crisis behind it is far from over.

Thailand is currently leaderless, with no date set for the nomination of a new prime minister.



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