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Protesters defy govt call to move out


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Thailand political standoff :
Protesters defy govt call to move out

Despite the authorities stepping up pressure Wednesday on demonstrators occupying the grounds of the prime minister's office, Thai protesters led by the anti-government
the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) refused to leave the site which they seized the day before, the Associated Press reported.

The government has obtained court orders demanding the crowd disperse and issuing arrest warrants for nine protest leaders on insurrection charges Wednesday.

The actions raised tensions at the protest site, where about 5,000 members of the People's Alliance for Democracy camped on the grounds of Government House to
demand the resignation of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, while thousands more filled adjoining streets.

A protest leader read the court orders to the crowd late Wednesday, but said protesters would ignore them pending appeals.

Demonstrators built makeshift barricades to hinder any police raid, despite their leaders saying they would not resist arrest. But while police were out in large numbers, they
did not appear to be preparing to quickly enforce the court order.

Dozens of police trucks were parked on streets near Government House and police doctors and ambulances were on stand-by at police headquarters, Thai television
reports said.

By late Wednesday, police had taken no direct action against the rally despite court-issued arrest warrants. Two thousand police have taken up position in and around the
compound, though the only confrontation was early on Wednesday when 15 people were injured in scuffles with police.

Samak said Tuesday that authorities would avoid using force against the demonstrators and would take a "soft and gentle" approach. He accused the protesters of trying to incite violence that could provoke a coup, but said he would not resign.

Gen Anupong Paochinda, the army chief, reassured the public Tuesday that the military was not planning a coup and would stay out of politics.

The protest alliance wants Samak's government to quit, saying it is a proxy for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by the military in 2006 and
recently fled to London in the face of several corruption cases.

After Samak led Thaksin political allies to a victory in national elections last December with the support of Thailand's rural majority, the alliance launched a new protest
campaign in May and it escalated this week with the capture of Government House.

The capital's deputy police chief, Lt Gen. Jongrak Chutanont, said the Bangkok Civil Court issued a ruling late Wednesday ordering all protesters to immediately leave the
government compound and to stop blocking public streets.

Earlier in the day, the Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for nine leaders of the right-wing protest group, which is loosely aligned with conservative factions in Thailand's
royal family and the military.

A police spokesman, Maj Gen. Suraphol Tuanthong, said the warrants charge insurrection, conspiracy, illegal assembly and refusing orders to disperse. Insurrection
carries a maximum penalty of death or life imprisonment, but no one is known to have been executed for at least 30 years on the rarely prosecuted charge.

Police urged the alliance's leaders, including Chamlong Srimuang, an influential former politician and army officer, and Sondhi Limthongkul, a media mogul, to turn themselves in.

Another protest organizer, Samran Rodpetch, announced the court orders from the protest rally stage and indicated the group would not comply while they appeal on Thursday.

Chamlong previously said the leaders would be willing to be arrested. But their supporters at Government House reacted angrily to news of the warrants.

"We will not allow police to arrest our leaders," Samran told the cheering crowd. "If the police want to arrest them, come here and do so. Or if they want our leaders to give
themselves up, that is fine, but the government has to resign first."

Interior Minister Kowit Watana appealed for the protesters to leave so a ceremony honoring the royal family could be held at Government House as planned Saturday.

The event, which is supposed to be attended by Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, comes at an awkward time for the alliance, which proclaims itself the most loyal supporter of
the monarchy.

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