Sun, Sep 07, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Conditions worsen at Thai rally

URINE-SOAKED MUD Hundreds lined up for medicine and toilets while thousands of other protesters milled around in the mud, relieving themselves where they could

AP , BANGKOK

An anti-government demonstrator looks on yesterday at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand.

PHOTO: AP

Living conditions at a 12-day-old protest at Thailand’s Government House were worsening, with thousands camped in mud enveloped by the stench of urine, but organizers said yesterday they would not leave until the prime minister resigns.

Protest organizers sprayed white disinfectant powder over the muddy, stinking ground, which was once a lush green lawn before the complex was taken over by a horde of protesters on Aug. 26.

Yesterday, a few hundred people, cooling themselves with plastic fans, were sitting on plastic sheets spread over the filthy mixture. Thousands more milled around on the roads ringing Government House, which houses the prime minister’s office.

More than 200 people lined up to get free medicine from makeshift clinics. Elsewhere in the compound, hundreds of people lined up to use mobile toilets while some men relieved themselves in the open amid the pervasive smell.

“It is a bad smell everywhere, but we can stand it. To get this government out of office we are even prepared to die,” said Mananya Maksukkha, a 54-year-old schoolteacher.

The standoff stems from a campaign by the People’s Alliance for Democracy — a loose-knit group of royalists, wealthy and middle-class urban residents and union activists — to oust Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his government, accusing it of corruption and violating the Constitution.

“We are determined to be here until the government is out,” said Maleerat Nongsanga, 50, a civil servant who came to the protest on Friday evening and intended to stay over the weekend.

“During office hours I will go to work. But no boss can prevent me from supporting the people’s revolution,” she said.

The deadlock has virtually paralyzed government work and raised fears of an economic downturn, especially in the crucial tourism industry. It has also raised concern about Thailand’s ability to hold a summit of Southeast Asian leaders in December.

A glimmer of hope for ending the crisis was raised on Friday when parliament appointed Senate Speaker Prasopsuk Boondet to act as a mediator.

Lawmakers say mediation should be attempted urgently because Samak’s plan to hold a referendum on whether the alliance’s campaign is justified will take many months.

Samak, who refuses to resign, reiterated on Friday that he would not negotiate with the alliance but did not reject Prasopsuk’s effort.

The alliance welcomed Prasopsuk’s appointment, but said it would hold negotiations with the government only after Samak resigns.

“We cannot do anything against the will of people who are determined to protest until our goal is reached,” Chamlong Srimuang, one of the five core protest leaders, told reporters.

The protesters accuse Samak of being a stooge of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was removed from power by a military coup in 2006 following months of street protests by the alliance.

On Friday, Samak said he would meet with security officials in the next few days to discuss whether to lift the state of emergency he imposed in Bangkok on Tuesday.

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