BANGKOK (AFP) - Thai exports rose for a seventh straight month in May from a year earlier, hitting the highest level in almost two years in a welcome boost to the protest-hit economy, official data showed. Shipments soared 42.1 percent in the month to 16.6 billion dollars, the most since July 2008, as exports of key commodities such as rubber gained significantly, the Commerce Ministry said. Imports rose 55.1 percent by value, lifted by increased demand for fuel and higher energy costs. Thailand posted a trade surplus of 2.2 billion dollars for May, after a deficit of 266 million dollars in April. The Thai economy, in particular its vital tourism sector, has seen its growth stunted by two months of anti-government protests in Bangkok that resulted in several outbreaks of deadly violence. But strong overseas demand has cushioned the blow. For the first five months of 2010, exports rose 34.5 percent from a year earlier to 75.0 billion dollars.