Thai PM returns, says he won’t resign (Third Lead)

November 26th, 2008 - 9:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangkok, Nov 26 (Xinhua) Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat returned Wednesday evening to the country from a summit meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) in Peru amid intense protest by the opposition People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) demanding his resignation, saying he had no intention to step down. The charter plane with Somchai and some cabinet members landed at the military airport in northern province Chiang Mai at 6.15 p.m. (1115 GMT) Wednesday evening. He was welcomed by supporters in red T-shirts at the airport.

Somchai was earlier expected to land at Don Mueang military airport in Bangkok but changed the plan after the PAD protesters besieged the Don Mueang and later the Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport Tuesday night, paralysing all air service.

Chiang Mai is home to ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, brother-in-law of Somchai, and also a stronghold of Thaksin-founded, now-dissolved Thai Rak Thai party.

The prime minister declined to answer reporters questions about Army Chief Anupong Paochinda’s suggestion that the premier dissolve parliament and call election to end the face off between the government and the opposition

The embattled premier responded to reporters’ question with a smile and insisted that he was a legally elected prime minister and would not resign because the PAD demanded him to.

The PAD has vowed to continue their rallies and besiege on the airports and the Government House until Somchai steps down.

Anupong made the “suggestions” Wednesday afternoon at a press conference after holding an urgent meeting with military and police top brass, business leaders and academics.

The army chief said he did not envisage any role for the military in resolving the government-opposition confrontation.

He said the meeting agreed that the Somchai government should dissolve the House of Representatives to “return power to the people”, while the PAD protesters should end their demonstrations and vacate the Government House and Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport to end the face off.

If the government refuses to step down, it would do so at the risk of provoking a civil disobedience campaign, he said, adding that if PAD continues with the rallies they would face social sanction.

Paochinda skirted answer to question on military’s possible stand if both sides refuse to relent.

Thousands of travellers were stranded at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport Wednesday after their flights were cancelled by a siege on the facility by anti-government protesters.

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