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November 25, 2008

Thailand Political Stalemate:
Anti-government protesters turn to PM’s temporary office

Around 10,000 anti-government protesters Tuesday besieged the Thai prime minister's temporary offices at an abandoned airport, in their latest bid to stop the government functioning, AFP quoted police as saying.

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 makeshift headquarters to the airport in September after demonstrators seized control of the formal cabinet offices in the city centre in late August.

"There are about 10,000 protesters at Don Mueang," a police spokesman said.

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

Thousands of protesters descended on parliament on Monday, forcing lawmakers to postpone an important joint session, and also began moving to the airport.

The PAD was at the forefront of street protests that led to the coup that toppled Thaksin in September 2006, and it is trying the same tactic with the current government.

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

"The cabinet meeting was rescheduled on Wednesday afternoon after prime minister Somchai arrives from Lima (for an APEC summit). The government has not cancelled or postponed its meeting," Nattawut told AFP.

"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.

The PAD has occupied the prime minister's office compound for nearly six months and looks unlikely to vacate anytime soon. Some analysts said they are trying to provoke a violent response from authorities and trigger a military coup, which would then oust the Somchai government.

The PAD said Mr Somchai is simply a puppet for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is thought to be gearing up for a political comeback.

The PAD is expanding its protests to include Don Muang Airport, which serves as Mr Somchai's temporary office.

Many Thais feel that the PAD is now simply obstructing necessary government business, but the group and its backers show no signs of giving up.

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