Pro-Thaksin protesters ring Thai Parliament
By DENIS D. GRAY,Associated Press Writer AP - 2 hours 23 minutes ago
BANGKOK, Thailand - Thousands of supporters of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ringed Thailand's Parliament on Monday, vowing to remain until the new government dissolves the legislature and calls general elections.
The demonstrators dared lawmakers to pass through their ranks to deliver a mandated speech outlining the government's key policies.
"If they (lawmakers) want to go in, they have to walk through us, including the prime minister," one of the protest leaders, Chatuporn Prompan, told reporters outside the Parliament compound where demonstrators spent the night.
Fearing clashes, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced his new government would postpone its policy address until Tuesday, but said it could be delivered as late as Wednesday _ a national holiday in the country.
"We will keep negotiating and mediating," Abhisit told supporters. "I beg everyone, including all the lawmakers and officials, to dedicate our holiday for the country in order to move our country forward."
The demonstration sparked fears of renewed political turmoil, which paralyzed the previous government for months and climaxed with an eight-day seizure of Bangkok's airports. But the earlier protesters had been part of an anti-Thaksin alliance.
The latest round of demonstrations could further batter the nearly moribund tourism industry, the country's No. 1 foreign currency earner, along with other economic sectors.
The protest group _ which calls itself the Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship _ said it would stay at Parliament until the government calls a snap election.
By law the government must announce its policies by Jan. 7, but legal experts say the government could argue for an extension because of the political turbulence.
Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said if the announcement could not be delivered Monday, attempts would be made to enter Parliament in the coming days _ but through negotiations and not the use of force.
"We wish to deliver the policy statements before the end of the year," he said.
The protesters _ dubbed the "red shirts" for their attire _ say Abhisit and his Democrat Party came to power this month through a virtual coup d'etat.
The court ruling that dissolved the previous government _ which was packed with Thaksin allies _ and led to Abhisit's selection as prime minister came under pressure from the military and other powerful forces, the group says.
Several thousand protesters Monday camped out on the street leading to Parliament, clapping and cheering as singers and protest leaders chastised the incoming government. Many wore red T-shirts with the slogan "Truth Today" and carried signs that described Abhisit as a dictator.
"We are here for democracy," said Narumol Thanakarnpanich, a 53-year-old university professor from Bangkok. "We want a new government."
The scene resembled events in recent weeks, when yellow-shirted protesters opposed to Thaksin first took over the prime minister's residence and then the two main airports.
The demonstration had the same relaxed festival feel, with security forces largely leaving the protesters alone. Families lounged on the pavement and vendors hawked grilled chicken, skewers of squid and ice cream.
The Oxford-educated, 44-year-old Abhisit was formally named prime minister Dec. 17 in what many hoped would be the end of months of turbulent demonstrations that had their roots in a 2006 military coup that toppled Thaksin.
In October, street clashes with police outside Parliament left two people dead and hundreds injured.
Abhisit, the nation's third prime minister in four months, vowed in his inaugural address to reunite the deeply divided nation and to restore Thailand's tourist-friendly image. The eight-day airport shutdown battered the country's essential tourism industry and stranded more than 300,000 travelers.
Recommend this article
Average (0 votes)
Sign in to recommend this article »
Most Recommended Stories »
Related Articles: Asia Pacific
S’pore urges all parties in Gaza conflict to work towards ceasefireChannel NewsAsia - 26 minutes ago
Dubai's Depa JV wins $32 mln contract in SingaporeReuters - 1 hour 15 minutes ago
Nearly 300 immigrants feared dead off Indian coastAP - 1 hour 43 minutes ago
Pakistan calls for calm with IndiaAFP - 1 hour 47 minutes ago
Police arrest suspected teen burglarChannel NewsAsia - 1 hour 52 minutes ago
Most Popular – Asia Pacific
Actress Jennifer Aniston appears naked in GQ magazine
Woolworths to close quarter of stores
Chances of gas cut '50-50', Russia warns Ukraine
At least 210 dead as Israel hammers Hamas-run Gaza
Obama economic plan to cost between 675 and 775 bln: aides
View Complete List »