Tens of thousands of protesters held an all night anti-givernment rally in Bangkok on Saturday to call for the resignation of prime minister Thaksin, accusing him of corruption and using political power to further his personal business interests.

However, Surapong Suebwonglee, a spokesman for the prime minister, said on Sunday that Thaksin intended to continue in his role for another three years and rejected opposition calls for him to stand down or hold new elections.

The prime minister's defiance comes despite the resignation of two junior ministers in as many days from a rebellious faction within Thaksin's ruling party.

Surapong said that Thaksin had no plans to reshuffle his cabinet but would appoint deputies to fill the vacant posts.
 

"We consider the resignations of two ministers as an internal problem of our Thai Rak Thai party, which is part of the evolution of a political institution. The resignations had nothing to do with the 4 February demonstration," he said.


Just the beginning

Opponents of the prime minister hailed Saturday's all night rally as a success.

Sondhi Limthongkul, a media mogul and one of Thaksin's leading critics, said the protest was just the beginning.

The opposition says it will increase
the protests against the PM

"This is a victory, because we managed to deliver our petition to the king's official representative and to army commander General Sonthi Boonyaratglin," he said.

One of the protest organisers, Prapan Khoonmme, promised to repeat the performance.

"We have decided to resume our demonstration next week because of public demand. Our mission to salvage our nation by pressing for Thaksin to resign is not yet complete," he said.

The anti-Thaksin camp was also boosted by the resignation of Sora-at Klinpratum, the technology minister, who announced he was quitting on Saturday.

The surprise resignation came just one day after Uraiwan Thienthong, the culture minister, too,had suddenly quit, saying she wanted to maintain "political ethics".

Both resignations came at the request of Uraiwan's husband Sanoh Thienthong, who leads a faction within Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party.

Faced with the possibility that the party could splinter,Somsak Thepsuthin, the labour minister, who heads another faction within the party, met his supporters on Sunday to assess the changing political landscape.

Royal role

"Our mission to salvage our nation by pressing for Thaksin to resign is not yet complete"

Prapan Khoonmme, protest organiser

Opposition Democrats, who have distanced themselves from the protest, also planned to meet to consider how to profit from Thaksin's troubles.

Thaksin himself planned to spend the day in his hometown of Chiang Mai.

Sondhi organised Saturday's demonstration in a Bangkok square leading to the Thai parliament in order to deliver a petition to King Bhumibol Adulyadej to pressure Thaksin to resign or to call new elections.

He also brought a petition to the army commander asking him to stop supporting the prime minister.

While not authorised to sack Thaksin, the popular king holds great sway over Thai society, and the prime minister has said that he would resign if asked to do so by the king.

The protest signified one of Thaksin's greatest challenges to face since he came to power five years ago, and reflects public anger at his family's sale of the telecom giant, Shin Corp, to Singapore's state-owned investment firm Temasek.

His family managed to avoid paying tax on the $1.9 billion  earned from the sale, sparking a public outcry and an investigation by regulators.