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December 29, 2008

Thailand Politics:
Protesters block parliament, call for dissolution

Several thousands antigovernment protesters wearing red shirts occupied the road around the Thai parliament Monday calling for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve parliament and hold a new election, reported Kyodo news agency.

The antigovernment protesters, called the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship, staged the rally ahead of a policy speech to be delivered by Abhisit and his Cabinet on Monday morning.

The protesters, supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had gathered at the Grand Palace and in front of parliament since Sunday before converging at the parliament early Monday.

They condemned the new government's legitimacy to run the country, saying the Democrat Party formed the government only with army support.

Nattawut Sai-kua, an antigovernment leader, said the protesters will allow the Cabinet and Members of Parliament enter the parliament compounds if cabinet members and MPs walk into the compound instead of arriving by car.

"I assure that we will not attack ministers and MPs, we just want to urge them to return democracy to people", he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said if the Cabinet and MPs cannot enter the compound in the morning, the policy speech will be postponed.

"We have the lesson from the day that we elected the premier, some MPs were wounded by red shirts protesters, so, we will not walk into the parliament compound...We will wait for the right time and right place", Suthep said.

Suthep added the government does not have a plan to find another place to deliver speech.

More than 2,000 police were deployed at parliament since Sunday to control the situation.

On October 7, protesters terming themselves the People's Alliance for Democracy blocked the Parliament, preventing the Cabinet led by then Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat from delivering policy speech.

Police later dispersed protesters with tear gas, leaving two people dead and more than 400, including police, injured.

On December 2, Somchai was unseated by the Constitutional Court.

It ruled to dissolve three political Parties, including Somchai's ruling People Power Party.

PAD supporters had earlier occupied two Bangkok airports for nearly 10 day, bringing the country to a virtual standstill and stranding tens of thousands of tourists and businesspeople in the Thai capital for days.

The PAD supported Abhisit's Democrat party, which was then in opposition.

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