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Protesters besiege Government House, ask PM to resige


June 21, 2008

Thailand: Protesters besiege Government House, ask PM to resige

Several thousand protesters besieged Thailand's seat of government Friday, delivering fiery anti-government speeches and singing nationalistic songs as they vowed to stay until the prime minister resigns, reported local and foreign news agencies.

The protesters, spearheaded by the People's Alliance for Democracy, claim that Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government is a proxy for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup.

The group, which led mass protests before the coup, demanding Thaksin step down for alleged corruption and abuse of power, accuse Samak's government of interfering with corruption charges against Thaksin and trying to change the constitution for its own self-interest.

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Chamlong Srimuang, an alliance leader, said the protesters would camp around the compound overnight and then stay on until Samak's four-month-old coalition government resigns.

Samak, who was not at Government House, declared the situation was under control and could be handled by police without help from the military, after meeting with the army commander and other senior security officials, deputy government spokesman Nattawut Sai-gua was quoted as saying. There were no immediate plans to declare a state of emergency or martial law, he said.

Protesters also brought up other issues, including a disputed border region with Cambodia and high fuel and food prices, accusing the government of mismanaging the country.

Samak's People's Power Party won general elections in December. His Cabinet is packed with Thaksin's allies, and critics say rehabilitating the former leader is among the government's top priorities.

Meanwhile, the Thai stock market rose 3.56 percent Friday as the anti-government rallies remained peaceful, analysts said. The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) composite index soared 26.44 points to close at 768.90 points, while the bluechip SET 50 index rebounded 21.88 points to close at 550.46.

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