Thu, Apr 09, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Bangkok protests grow ahead of ASEAN summit

AFP , BANGKOK

More than 100,000 protesters rallied in Bangkok yesterday in their biggest bid yet to topple Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, deepening the country’s political crisis just days before an ASEAN summit.

Demonstrators dressed in signature red shirts massed outside the house of a top royal aide whom they accuse of masterminding the 2006 coup that ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

They also gathered outside the offices of the British-born Abhisit, where protesters have staged a sit-in for the past two weeks, chanting “Bring Thaksin back, Abhisit get out!”

Thousands of security forces guarded key sites across the capital, but there was no immediate sign of violence despite the prime minister’s warnings that a core group of protesters would try to provoke bloodshed.

“We came here to expel the government,” protest leader Nattawut Saikuar told the cheering crowd of so-called “Red Shirts,” adding that they planned to stay in place until tomorrow.

Abhisit rejected the protesters’ demands to dissolve his four-month-old administration and hold fresh elections, warning of strong action if there was any violence.

He said some protesters wanted to trigger “chaos on the streets,” adding that an attack on his car on Tuesday showed there were deliberate efforts to provoke the government.

Police issued a warning to protesters not to enter the house of General Prem Tinsulanonda, a former prime minister who is now a key aide to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, after thousands of demonstrators ringed the compound.

Bangkok Deputy Police Commander Lieutenant General Chakthip Chaijinda said he had informed Abhisit that there were more than 100,000 protesters in the city and that more were expected overnight.

“We are worried that third parties may act tonight and may launch a bomb attack,” he said. “But we have enough officials and also a large number on stand-by.”

Abhisit insisted there was no threat to a summit of Asian leaders due to start tomorrow in the resort of Pattaya.

“All of the leaders still confirm that they will attend the meeting,” he said.

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