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Thai protesters hail prime minister's ouster

Demonstrators from the People’s Alliance for Democracy celebrate at Suvarnabhumi Airport, which reopened today.

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Demonstrators from the People’s Alliance for Democracy celebrate at Suvarnabhumi Airport, which reopened today.

BANGKOK, Thailand — Victorious antigovernment protesters lifted their siege of Bangkok's two airports today while the ousted government's leaders met to decide on a caretaker prime minister to lead the politically chaotic kingdom.

The country's immediate crisis, which virtually severed Thailand's air links to the outside world for a week, appeared to be over and the People's Alliance for Democracy said it was ending six months of daily antigovernment protests. But the alliance warned it would be on the streets again if a new government tried to return to its past policies.

A court decision Tuesday forced the country's prime minister from office and disbanded the three top ruling coalition parties. But they were quickly reconstituted under different guises, and leaders met today to choose a caretaker prime minister.

A spokesman for the protest alliance, Parnthep Wonguapan, said protesters at Bangkok's international and domestic airports were ordered to "clean up and pack their belongings" before leaving the two sites today.

The first commercial airliner — a flight by the national airline Thai Airways from the resort island of Phuket — was scheduled to land at Suvarnabhumi international airport at 2 p.m., said airline spokeswoman Ajcharnaporn na Songhkla.

In what was billed as a hand-over ceremony, Vudhibhandhu Vichairatana, the chairman of the Airports of Thailand, hugged and shook hands with alliance leaders in front of a Buddhist shrine as protesters danced to folk music and trucks loaded with their gear rolled out of the airport.

"We want to clean up the airport before we leave. We want PAD (the alliance) to have a good image," said Bow Piyapat, a souvenir maker, as she wielded her mop around rows of check-in counters at Suvarnabhumi.

But the image of the alliance, as well as Thailand in general, has taken a battering, especially among some 300,000 travelers still stranded by last week's airport takeovers. The months of protests and political uncertainty is also hammering the economy and vital tourism industry.

At least six people have been killed and scores injured in clashes in recent months.

The protesters — who seek to eliminate the one-person, one-vote system — is also seeking to purge the nation of the influence of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. They accuse Thaksin of massive corruption and seeking to undermine the country's revered constitutional monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup, but the alliance alleges that governments voted into office since then have been proxies for the exiled Thaksin.

Thai protesters hail prime minister's ouster 12/02/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 10:47am]

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