Thai protestors pressure army chief after government proves elusive

Other News Materials 25 November 2008 13:42 (UTC +04:00)

Thousands of Thai protestors surrounded the Royal Thai Army headquarters in northern Bangkok Tuesday to thwart the cabinet from meeting after earlier chasing the government out of Parliament and Bangkok's old international airport, reported dpa.

The well-organized anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has succeeded in suspending parliamentary business and chasing the cabinet around town but appeared unable to spark the "final battle" needed to topple the government by Wednesday as pledged, observers said.

The protestors also demanded Tuesday that the powerful army chief, General Anupong Paojinda, join them in pressuring the government, which they accuse of being a proxy for the exiled political strongman Thaksin Shinawatra, to stand down.

The army chief said a coup was out of the question, saying the armed services already had troops ready to prevent anarchy and stop political clashes.

The former head of Thaksin's now defunct political party, Chaturon Chaisang, said the PAD's inability to do more than merely disrupt a weak government was telling:

"They are losing popularity, but at the same time, they have been able to let people see that the government can't administer the country," Chaturon said.

The armed forces, which ousted prime minister Thaksin in a bloodless September 2006 coup, appear to be trying to remain above the fray as pro- and anti-Thaksin forces tussle for dominance.

"Anupong doesn't want to have a coup, but he is also not helping the government either," Chaturon said.

The PAD, an alliance of disparate groups bound together by their dislike of Thaksin, is now threatening to lay siege to Bangkok's sprawling Suwarnabhumi Airport for the arrival of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, who is scheduled to return Wednesday from an Asia-Pacific summit in Peru.

House Speaker Chai Chidchob called off Monday's parliamentary session rather than ask politicians to break through a ring of demonstrators.

An emergency cabinet meeting at Don Mueang Airport - Bangkok's old international airport, which has been serving as the government's temporary headquarters for the past three months - was later also cut short when PAD protestors descended on the facility, forcing key ministers to flee.

The airport has been home to the administration since the PAD began occupying Government House, the seat of the executive body, on August 26.

PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul called this week's protest the "final battle," vowing to bring the government down by Wednesday, after holding continuous street protests and demonstrations in Bangkok for six months.