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Thai protesters besiege government HQ

About 10 000 anti-government protesters on Tuesday besieged the Thai prime minister’s temporary offices at an abandoned airport, in their latest bid to stop the government functioning, police said.

Yellow-clad supporters of the People’s Alliance of Democracy (PAD) took trucks, buses and private cars to the old Don Mueang international airport on the northern outskirts of the capital Bangkok.

Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat moved to the makeshift headquarters at the airport in September, after demonstrators seized control of the government’s formal Cabinet offices in the city centre in late August.

”There are about 10 000 protesters at Don Mueang,” a police spokesperson said.

The protesters were headed by core leaders of the PAD, which is accusing the government of being corrupt and a puppet of exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

They waved Thai flags and rattled the anti-government movement’s signature plastic hand clappers, while most wore yellow clothes to symbolise loyalty to the country’s deeply revered king.

”There are more than 10 000 of us here and we are prepared for a long siege like at Government House [the premier’s offices in central Bangkok],” PAD leader Sawit Kaoewan said.

Sawit, who is also secretary-general of Thailand’s main public sector union, said that 190 000 union members would stage a nationwide strike on Tuesday.

”It will begin today,” said Sawit, following the pledge made last week by the State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation to go on strike if the government had not resigned.

Thousands of protesters descended on Parliament on Monday in what the movement called its ”final battle” against the government, forcing lawmakers to postpone an important joint session.

They also began to gather at the airport, although numbers overall were lower than the PAD had flagged for the protest.

The PAD launched massive street protests that led to the bloodless coup that toppled Thaksin in September 2006. It is using the same tactic against the current administration.

It says it wants to cripple the government of Somchai, who is Thaksin’s brother-in-law, but government spokesperson Nattawut Saikuar said the weekly Cabinet meeting normally scheduled for Tuesday was not taking place.

”The Cabinet meeting has been rescheduled for Wednesday afternoon after Prime Minister Somchai arrives from Lima [from an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit]. The government has not cancelled or postponed its meeting,” Nattawut said.

”They wanted to blockade the government, they want to step up pressure on us but the government still adheres to peaceful means of negotiation,” he said. – AFP



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