Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Leaders of an anti-government protest in Thailand have promised to continue their occupation of two Bangkok airports and to “fight to the death” should police seek to forcibly remove them. But, in a change in tactics to counter rising tension, Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat has affirmed his desire for mediation with demonstrators based on the principal of “non-violence”.
On November 26th thousands of protesters stormed the international airport of Suvarnabhumi, yesterday it was the turn of the smaller airport in Don Mueang, mainly used for domestic flights. The Premier had declared a state of emergency in the two airports, accusing protesters of keeping the nation hostage.
A government spokesman added that the police had received instructions to proceed with the removal of the protesters “as soon as possible” using “peaceful means”. The governing executive mandated security forces to open up negotiation channels with protesters; in the case of a refusal, agents were authorised to “do everything necessary to re-open the airports, based on the principal of non violence”.
In stark contrast to this members of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) remained defiant, vowing to "fight to the death" if police tried to disperse them and promising to stay in the airports until “Somchai resigns”. The situation is currently one of apparent clam; sources close to the government confirm that the executive is committed to negotiations with protest leaders.
The government has also confirmed that the international airport of Suvarnabhumi will remain closed until November 29th; to favour the return flights of many tourists still blocked in Thailand, the government has made extra flights available from military airports close to the capital.
Somchai has decided to remain “indefinitely” in Chiang Mai, to the north of the country, because of “tensions” between the government and military. An extraordinary cabinet session has been programmed to take place in Chiang Mai to address the current crises.
On November 27th army chief Anupong Paojinda, invited the Prime Minister to resign and dissolve parliament. The army chief, an influential figure in national politics, did however quash the hypothesis of military coup, recalling that the government still has “full authority” over the nation.