Thai PM moves against protesters

Samak Sundarajev orders crack down on demonstrators at Bangkok's Government House.

    Thousands of protesters have camped out at Government House in Bangkok [AFP]

    "Thousands of police will be deployed to move the protesters out of the Government House."
       
    "We respect the court's order, but we don't have enough time to move out and we will launch an appeal," said Samran Rodpetch, standing on a stage as demonstrators reinforced barricades blocking roads near the site to stop the police.

    Confrontation

    The protests have been led by the PAD, which is aligned with conservative factions of the monarchy and the military.

    The group has been protesting across Bangkok, the capital, since May to demand the Samak's resignation.

    The prime minister has confronted the protesters, who are demanding his resignation amid accusations the coalition he heads is an illegitimate proxy by Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister deposed in a coup in September 2006.

    Samak has ordered the police to remove protesters [AFP]
    "There is no way [that] a country of 63 million, like Thailand, will let a group of five people form a street gang to seize control," he said.
       
    Dozens of police trucks were parked on streets near Government House and police doctors and ambulances were on stand-by at police headquarters, Thai television reports said.
       
    By late Wednesday, police had taken no direct action against the rally despite court-issued arrest warrants for nine PAD leaders, accusing them of inciting unrest and trying to overthrow the government, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
       
    Two thousand police have taken up position in and around the compound, though the only confrontation was early on Wednesday when 15 people were injured in scuffles with police.
       
    An opinion poll showed a marked shift in the public mood against the PAD, whose 2005 protests against Thaksin led ultimately to his removal.

    The Bangkok University survey suggested 73 per cent of people in Bangkok disagreed with the three-month campaign by the group to oust Samak.

    The PAD proclaims itself a defender of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej against a supposed Thaksin plan to turn Thailand into a republic - a charge vehemently denied by both Thaksin, now in exile in London, and the government.

    'Stand fast'

    After the warrants were issued, PAD's Chamlong Srimuang, a retired major-general and ascetic Buddhist who led a 1992 people power uprising against military rule, urged the demonstrators to stand fast.
       
    "More people will join us tomorrow. Don't leave or we will lose. If we hold on, we will win in the next three to four days," he told the crowd at Government House.
       
    The stock market has fallen 23 per cent since Chamlong and his allies launched their latest anti-government campaign, amid fears of everything from policy paralysis at a time of stuttering economic growth to bloodshed on the streets.
       
    Tuesday's crossing of the line into violent protest helped send the baht to its lowest level against the dollar since November.

    It also caused a switch from broadly sympathetic coverage in the domestic press to outright condemnation.
       
    "The PAD's 'last whistle blow' is unjustified, unnecessary, provocative and illegal," the Bangkok Post said in an editorial.
       
    "If the PAD really wants to bring down the government, it should do so through the parliament. That is the proper, democratic place to do it."
       
    Anupong Paochinda,the army chief, has said he was not going to get involved and that crowd control was a matter for the police.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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