Thai government drops plan to crack down on protestors
Thailand's prime minister on Saturday cancelled plans to forcibly end a week-long anti-government demonstration in Bangkok that has raised questions about the country's always fragile political stability.
Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej earlier Saturday threatened to use force to disrupt the demonstration by about 1,000 people led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the group that organized the mass protests in 2006 that eventually led to the downfall of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra by military coup.
Samak, a political ally of Thaksin's, ordered the demonstration cleared by nightfall, but then cancelled the crackdown late Saturday, the dpa reported.
After sending 200 riot police to the site of the protests in the old part of Bangkok, the government defused the tense standoff by allowing the demonstration to continue.
Interior Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, who announced the government's decision, explained that Samak had been worried about intelligence reports that "ill-intentioned people" planned to throw grenades into the protest.
The PAD has been calling for Samak's resignation for the past week after the government approved a motion to amend the 2007 constitution.
Protest leaders claim the amendments are aimed at clearing Thaksin, who was ousted by a coup in September 2006, of corruption charges and paving the way for his return to power.
Thaksin, a billionaire businessman, used populist policies to claim the premiership between 2001 to 2006, winning himself a huge following among Thailand's poor but turning the political elite against him when his growing monopoly on power led to perceived abuses for his personal gain.
After spending 17 months in exile in the post-coup period, Thaksin's return to Thailand continues to split the country into pro and anti-Thaksin factions.