09/03/2008, 00.00
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Bangkok: public sector on general strike, anti-government protests continue

This morning 43 union leaders from the public sector declared a strike, but so far it has led to minimal disruptions. 25% of schools are closed, public transport, water and electricity are regular. The military excludes the possibility of a state coup.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – This morning public sector workers in Thailand began a general strike, even though so far it has resulted in minimal disturbances across the country.  25% of schools in the capital are closed and there have been no disruptions to energy and water supplies.  Developments throughout the day have not been excluded, given that the paralysis announced by union leaders could bring Bangkok and its 10 million inhabitants to its knees. 

Today 43 separate union leaders – representing over 200 thousand public sector workers – launched strike action to pressure Premier Samak Sundaravej, whose resignation over half of the country is calling for.  Yesterday the premier declared a state of emergency, for an indefinite time period, after groups of pro and anti-government protesters clashed Monday night resulting in the death of one man.  Emergency powers hand full control of public order over to the military, ban all public gatherings of more than five people and limit press publication of news that could “undermine public security”.  Special powers were given to General. Anupong Paojinda, who immediately excluded the possibility of another military state coup: “There is no possibility that the army will attempt a coup – the general affirmed – the crises will be dealt with by parliament”.

Thailand's biggest power producer, EGAT, said it was business as usual at its Bangkok headquarters and power plants across the country as most staff showed up for work. Bangkok's transport operators said all bus, rail and underground routes were operating as normal, while outer city rail lines were operating at 75%.  Shops, bars and restaurants were open for the rush of tourists who have remained in Bangkok despite recent tensions.

The crises in Thailand began three weeks ago, when exponents from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) begun a series of demonstrations demanding the resignation of  Prime Minister Samak, who they considered a pawn of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, removed two years ago (September  2006) by a military state coup and currently in voluntary exile in London.  Over the past 7 days they have also occupied government buildings.  Monday night’s clashes left 43 people injured 3 seriously as well as one person dead, Narongsak Kobthaisong.



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