Fri, Apr 10, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Protesters vow to block ASEAN meet set to open today

AFP , BANGKOK

Protesters in Bangkok threatened yesterday to stop this weekend’s ASEAN summit as mass street rallies against Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva continued.

The demonstrators vowed to target the coastal resort town of Pattaya, where leaders from the ASEAN countries and partners including China and Japan are due to meet.

“If we have to shut down the whole town then we have to and it’s a warning to friendly countries that the meeting may not happen,” protest leader Nattawut Saikuar told reporters in Bangkok.

Abhisit’s four-month-old government faces its biggest challenge after more than 100,000 loyal supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra gathered in Bangkok on Wednesday to demand that he quit office and call fresh elections.

Police said about 25,000 protesters were left yesterday outside the house of a royal aide whom they accuse of orchestrating the 2006 coup that toppled Thaksin, as well as at Abhisit’s office and Bangkok’s royal plaza.

Security has been beefed up in Pattaya for the summit since Thaksin’s so-called “Red Shirts” attacked Abhisit’s motorcade in the town on Tuesday, smashing one of its windows.

The summit has already been postponed from December, when protesters opposed to the previous, pro-Thaksin government shut down Bangkok’s airports in a major blow to Thailand’s economy and its international prestige.

Abhisit reassured foreign leaders there would be no further disruption to the summit and said he would not resign.

In Bangkok, tensions escalated yesterday when about 100 taxi drivers sympathetic to Thaksin left their vehicles and blocked a key intersection in response to an appeal on the Red Shirt movement’s radio station.

Traffic jams several kilometers long built up at the capital’s Victory Monument. The government said it was negotiating with the cabbies but would use lifting equipment to remove the vehicles if the talks failed.

Hundreds of protesters also fanned out towards the headquarters of Abhisit’s Democrat Party, the Constitutional Court — which was responsible for toppling the previous government — and the Foreign Ministry.

In an incident early yesterday, a woman appeared to drive her car at protesters before escaping, causing one minor injury, but the protests in the capital have so far been peaceful.

The “Red Shirts” have issued a 24-hour ultimatum for the resignation of General Prem Tinsulanonda, the top adviser to the king, and two other members of the privy council.

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