08/28/2008, 00.00
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No “iron fist” to disperse demonstrators, says Thai prime minister

For three days People’s Alliance for Democracy supporters have occupied government offices in Bangkok, calling for the resignation of the prime minister. Opponents accuse PM Samak of being a “puppet” in Thaksin’s hands and of plotting against the monarchy.
Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thailand’s Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej will not resort—for the time being—to the use of force to disperse protesters held up in the capital’s government district. The ultimatum he set for today passed without him using the “iron fist” he had pledged to use against the tens of thousands of members from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) who called for his resignation. It seems that the prime minister has softened his position fearing that the use of the army was “too risky”.

Police who were ordered to disperse demonstrators have been reluctant to do so. Instead they are keeping a watchful eye on the situation from a certain distance to monitor what protesters are up to.

For their part the crowd of demonstrators has set up makeshift barricades of car tires, razor wire and steel crash barriers on access roads, calling on the prime minister to quit, accusing him of being a puppet in the hands of his predecessor Thaksin Shinawatra, who was in exile, and might still face trial on several charges for corruption.

Samak said he does not want to resort to the use of force, but slams the acts of provocation by the demonstrators against the military.

“They [PAD supporters] want bloodshed in the country,” he said. “They want the military to come out and do the coup again.”

Protests began on Tuesday when some 30,000, conservative-leaning, pro-monarchy and pro-army PAD sympathisers, took to the streets demanding the prime minister’s resignation.

A court issued an order to demonstrators that they leave the government compound or face legal and police action. The latter countered by saying that their action was designed to “protect the monarchy,” which in their view is threatened by an alleged plot by former Prime Minister Thaksin “to turn Thailand into a republic.”

Major General Suraphol Tuanthong, the deputy police spokesman, said warrants were issued against nine protest leaders on charges of insurrection, conspiracy, illegal assembly and refusing orders to disperse.

Under Thai law insurrection is the legal equivalent of treason and carries a maximum penalty of death or life imprisonment.

For now the government seems averse to using an iron fist against demonstrators, but the situation could change in the next few hours.

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See also
New government takes over in Bangkok amidst barricades, teargas and 60 wounded
Somchai Wongsawat new Thai prime minister
Bangkok: bomb explodes near government compound as tensions rise across the country
Samak accepts to succeed himself
Student movement joins PAD against Sundaravej


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