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Protesters besiege Asian leaders’ summit in Thailand

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on April 10, 2009

Supporters of former prime minister reach luxury hotel and demand current leader steps down

Guardian.co.uk

protesters-at-asean-summi-002

Anti-government protesters in Thailand this morning broke through a police cordon to reach the venue for a summit of Asian leaders in the resort town of Pattaya.

About 2,000 red-shirted supporters of the former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a coup in 2006, confronted police and troops outside the luxury hotel where the summit is being held, demanding that the government of the current prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, step down.

But tensions eased later after an official from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) emerged from the hotel to accept a letter from the demonstrators.

Protest leader Arisman Pongreungrong said they had agreed to leave the site for now and to unblock roads leading to the summit venue. But he said the protesters would regroup in the town, a few miles away from the hotel, and discuss whether to return to the summit if their demands were not met.

The action in the town, 90 miles south-east of Bangkok, follows three days of huge protests in the capital. Mass protests began on Wednesday, with 100,000 people surrounding Abhisit’s office at Government House in the capital.

Abhisit has been forced to declare today a public holiday, hoping it will be easier to control the demonstrations with fewer people in Bangkok.

In a televised address yesterday, Abhisit said he wanted to ease the inconvenience to the public caused by the protests, and make it easier to identify troublemakers. He added he would not give in to Thaksin’s demands for him to step down.

Thaksin, a telecommunications billionaire, lives in self-imposed exile, but his absence has not healed the divisions between the royalist, military and business elite, who say he was corrupt, and the poor, who benefited from his populist policies.

Abhisit became prime minister in December, after a pro-Thaksin government was dismissed by the courts.

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