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PM Samak talks tough as PAD protest enters sixth day

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Thailand political standoff:
PM Samak talks tough as PAD protest enters sixth day

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej was adamant when he again vowed in a weekly televised speech Sunday that he would not bow out of office.

Addressing the Sunday morning programme on the state-run NBT television, Samak argued that he was an elected premier, and had done nothing wrong.

In the same address that took about an hour, Samak also accused another state-owned television Thai PBS of siding with the anti-government protesters, saying that it played up reports from the side of the protesters to attack the government.

He also reprimanded the senators who visited protesters occupying the Government House, and chided the local media for speculating his resignation.

As the protests led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) continued, with state enterprises throwing their support, there were growing concerns that the crisis would turn violent.  

The refusal to step down came ahead of a meeting late Saturday with Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej at his seaside palace in Hua Hin, south of the capital Bangkok, to brief the monarch on the current situation.

Samak was given a boost when parties in the ruling coalition promised to back the prime minister at a press conference.

The leaders of the five coalition partners stood firm on their capability to administer the country, the Thai News Agency quoted Surapong Suebwonglee, secretary-general of People’s Power Party, the core party in
the coalition, as saying at a joint press conference late Saturday, held in the absence of the prime minister who did not attend the meeting as had been planned.

There is an emergency parliamentary debate scheduled for today (Sunday, August 31) where the government and opposition MPs are expected to find a solution to end the political standoff.  

Meanwhile, major airlines operating in and out of the international airports in Thailand said their businesses were hard hit by the closure of airports besieged by PAD members.

Until Saturday evening, airports in Phuket and and Krabi, popular tourist destinations, remained closed while the Hat Yai International Airport in Songkla province reopened. All the three airports are in Southern Thailand.

Thai Airways International (THAI) president Apinan Sumanaseni said the closure of the airports caused passengers to refund their airfares. "It's for the AoT to decide when the airports will be opened, but THAI is ready to take off," said Mr. Apinan.

Earlier, THAI union leader Jamsri Sukchote-rat issued a statement that 15,000 THAI employees would participate in the PAD protests, but Apinan said the number of those taking leave would not be as many.

Chief Executive Officer Tassapon Bijleveld of Thai AirAsia, a subsidiary of Malaysia-based AirAsia, said the closure put a halt to the airline's flights to Phuket and Krabi.

Airport authorities have warned protesters that raids on airports would dry up income from tourism sector and tarnish the country’s image, and asked the PAD not to focus on the airline business as a means to demand the prime minister's resignation.

In Singapore, SilkAir cancelled six flights bound for Phuket from the city-state Saturday as the Thai airport remained closed after protesters stormed it on Friday, reported Channel News Asia.

Tiger Airways, which flies once a day to Phuket, also had to stop flying to the report island and offering its passengers flying from Singapore a choice of a full refund or a change in travel dates.

In Thailand, Phuket airport authorities said that more than 100 flights had been cancelled since Friday,

including 25 on international routes, leaving 15,000 passengers stranded.

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