Thai protesters block parliament

Parliament forced to postpone joint session after thousands surround building in "final battle" to topple government.

    More than 1,000 police officers were deployed and 2,000 soldiers put on standby [GALLO/GETTY]

    PM to stay

    As the protesters massed outside parliament on Monday, Somchai Wongsawat, the prime minister, said from Peru where he was attending a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum, that he did not intend to resign.

    "Let them continue their protests, the government will wait until the end of this session of parliament and then the government may think about having an extraordinary session of parliament"

    Kudeb Saikrachang, government spokesman

    "We came in through democratic elections, so I am not thinking of resigning at all," he told the Reuters news agency.

    "I will exercise restraint to the utmost. We have to talk and try for reconciliation," said Somchai, who added the Thai military had repeatedly ruled out a coup and that he saw no need to use stronger measures to quell the protests.

    Kudeb Saikrachang, a spokesman for the Thai government, told Al Jazeera that the government had "now made it clear that we don't want to have any confrontation with the protesters ... we would like to know what they [the protesters] are now going to do when we don't have confrontation".

    "Let them continue their protests, the government will wait until the end of this session of parliament and then the government may think about having an extraordinary session of parliament," he said.

    He said the government believed that while the protesters could continue their protest at the relatively controlled environment of Government House, they would not be able to continue taking to the streets of Bangkok for even two or three days because "the public will be very upset with the movement".

    More than a thousand police officers stood guard outside the barricaded parliament as the mass of protesters arrived on Monday and 2,000 soldiers were on standby in case police asked for help.

    But they were ordered not to be armed with lethal weapons, "only shields and batons",  said Nattawut Saikuar, another government spokesman.

    The move was to try to prevent a repeat of bloody street battles on October 7 that left two protesters dead and nearly 500 people injured.

    'Final battle'

    Sondhi Limthongkul, the leader of the so-called People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) group leading the protests, said supporters would divide into groups and descend on different locations throughout the capital for a "final battle" against the government.

    Protesters are demanding Somchai resign as prime minister [AFP]
    "It will be our longest day. The leaders have already planned our battle tactics... in this war the protesters will seize our capital back," he said.

    The PAD is demanding the resignation of Somchai, accusing him of being a proxy for his brother-in-law, Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister who was ousted in a military coup in 2006.

    The protesters' camp at Government House was attacked several times in recent weeks by small bombs and grenades, including a blast on Thursday that killed one person and wounded 29.

    One of the eight people wounded by a grenade on Saturday died on Sunday.

    No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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