Sat, Nov 29, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Thai PM sacks police chief as demonstrators stay put

AGENCIES , BANGKOK

An anti-government protester sets up a barrier in front of Don Mueang airport in Bangkok yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat sacked his national police chief yesterday.

General Patcharawat Wongsuwan, who was moved to an inactive post, had resisted previous orders to crack down on the street protesters who began a “final battle” to unseat the government on Monday, Thai media reported.

“The removal was the result of his performance during this current crisis,” government spokesman Nattawut Saikuar told NBT television a day after Somchai had declared a state of emergency to end two crippling airport sieges.

Riot police with truncheons and shields gathered at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport yesterday and ordered protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy to leave immediately, as anti-government leaders rejected last-ditch attempts to negotiate an end to the crisis.

In an earlier televised address, Somchai had said the government would use “gentle measures” against the protesters.

“Don’t worry. Officials will use gentle measures to deal with them,” Somchai said, inviting human rights and media organizations to observe and film the process.

Earlier, police said they hoped talks with protest leaders would end the siege, but warned they would “take other steps” if they failed.

“We are asking them to allow the airport to resume operations,” Lieutenant-General Suchart Muenkaew, the chief police negotiator, told reporters.

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