Wed, Oct 08, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Thai protesters trap MPs in parliament

RESIGNATION The deputy prime minister charged with negotiating with the demonstrators quit after police fired teargas at them yesterday, injuring 116 people

AFP , BANGKOK

Anti-government protesters clash with police outside Parliament House in Bangkok, Thailand, yesterday after riot police used tear gas to try to disperse thousands of People’s Alliance for Democracy supporters who have besieged parliament for weeks. Officials said 116 people were injured in the clashes.

PHOTO: EPA

Anti-government protesters trapped hundreds of Thai lawmakers and senators inside the parliament building yesterday, a minister said, forcing the prime minister to scale a fence to escape the mob.

Thousands of demonstrators demanding the ousting of the elected government surrounded the parliament building in the capital late on Monday to try to prevent the first policy speech by Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.

Police fired tear gas early yesterday and were able to clear a road to allow the lawmakers access to the house for the special session but protesters regrouped and blocked parliament exits as the session went on.

House speaker Chai Chidchob prematurely ended the session, which was attended by 320 members of parliament (MPs) and senators.

“We have to wait to see how the situation plays out. In my personal opinion it will be hard to get out today but eventually we will get out,” Agriculture Minister Somsak Prisanananthakul said.

Attempts by ministers and MPs to negotiate with protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) group were met with jeers from the crowd near the entrance to the building.

Somchai and five of his aides climbed a fence into the grounds of a palace next door to get out. Somchai was then airlifted by police helicopter to army headquarters, an official inside the parliament building said.

Meanwhile, recently appointed Thai Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh resigned yesterday because of a crackdown on fresh anti-government protests.

In a resignation letter, Chavalit, one of five deputy prime ministers, said his role as chief negotiator with demonstrators had been compromised after police twice fired teargas to disperse crowds yesterday morning, injuring 116 people.

“The reason I resign is because what the security officials have done is not in line with what I had promised and I have attempted to avoid casualties,” Chavalit’s letter said.

“I consider that I have to take responsibility for the injuries ... I quit as deputy prime minister post as of now,” he wrote.

Somchai had tasked Chavalit with ending a six-week occupation of the main government compound by PAD protesters.

Talks between the PAD and government were already in jeopardy after two PAD leaders were arrested on charges of treason over the past week.

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