BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- Thai prime minister Somchai Wongsawat declared a state of emergency Thursday at Bangkok's two main airports, which are still being besieged by anti-government protesters, a government spokesman said.
Wongsawat made the declaration after his cabinet, meeting in the northern city of Chiang Mai, agreed to the measure, said government spokesman Nattawut Saikua
The news was greeted with defiant cheers from thousands of protesters at the main airport.
It was not immediately clear what powers the emergency declaration gives the government. Watch background to Thailand turmoil »
Somchai had to fly into Chiang Mai upon his return from last week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru because of the disturbances at the Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports.
The Bangkok airports have been closed for two days, leaving the city without any access to air traffic, stranding thousands of passengers and dealing a severe blow to the economy at the height of the tourist season.
Protesters surrounded the parliament building on Monday, forcing lawmakers to postpone their session.
Wongsawat rejected calls Wednesday to dissolve parliament, despite the country's army chief Anupong Paochinda suggesting that he do so.
The anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which has been leading protests since May, said it will not end its occupation of the airports until Somchai resigns.
Shinawatra, ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006 and now in Dubai, was sentenced to two years in prison for corruption in October.
But Wongsawat rejected calls Wednesday to dissolve parliament, despite the country's army chief Anupong Paochinda suggesting that he do so.
"This government has legitimacy," Somchai said. "The administration needs to protect Thai democracy and the Thai people, which is most important.