Thai protestors vow to dig in at Bangkok airports

November 30th, 2008 - 12:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangkok, Nov 30 (DPA) A senior leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) vowed Sunday to remain at Bangkok’s two airports until they succeed in toppling the government.Chamlong Srimuang told supporters at Government House, the site of a grenade attack early Sunday that injured 46 PAD members, that the political standoff between the demonstrators and the government would have a “victor” Tuesday.

Thailand’s Constitution Court is expected to rule Tuesday on whether the ruling People Power Party (PPP) committed fraud during the Dec 23, 2007 elections.

A guilty verdict would lead to the dissolution of the PPP, which leads the current government, and the banning of its top executives from office.

That would require Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat to step down, which the PAD has been fighting for.

In the ensuing confusion, it is expected that the PAD and its political supporters would push for an appointed interim cabinet, set up by the Constitution Court.

“The PAD and Constitution Court are functioning in parallel,” said Chaturon Chaisaeng, a former politician with close ties to the current government.

“Their aims will merge Tuesday.”

The PAD, a loose coalition of groups opposed to the return to power of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, has been holding protests against the government for the past six months.

It launched its “final battle” last week, invading Suvarnabhumi International Airport Tuesday, forcing the facility to close down completely by Wednesday, and taking over Don Mueang, the capital’s former airport, the following day.

Bangkok has been completely shut off to air traffic since Thursday, causing millions of dollars in daily losses and longer-term damage to the economy.

The kingdom’s two main foreign exchange earners, exports and tourism, are highly reliant on uninterrupted operation of the Suvarnabhumi airport.

Although Somchai placed both airports under emergency decree Thursday, and ordered the police to clear out the demonstrators, the authorities have thus far refused to act.

The police are aware that Somchai may no longer be prime minister by Tuesday, and recall that they came under heavy criticism from the Thai public for an Oct 7 crackdown on the PAD that left two demonstrators dead.

Thai Queen Sirikit, wife of Thailand’s much-revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, attended the funeral of one of the Oct 7 victims.

Besides broad backing from Bangkok’s middle class, the PAD is known to have the support of many members of Thailand’s political elite, including the army.

While Thai authorities have yet to take action against the PAD, there are growing concerns that pro-government demonstrators will prove less conciliatory.

The pro-government Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD) planned a mass rally Sunday night in Bangkok.

There are fears that the DAAD, which has been law-abiding this far, will turn to violence in the coming days to rein in the PAD.

“Thailand is tipping out of control,” warned Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Bangkok’s prestigious Chulalongkorn University.

“The DAAD could go on its own rampage, and then who will stop them? Only Thaksin.”

Thaksin, a billionaire former telecommunications tycoon turned populist politician who dominated Thai politics during two terms as premier between 2001-06, is currently a fugitive, living in self-exile to avoid a prison sentence for corruption.

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