Thai premier declares emergency, escapes mob attack (Second Lead)

April 12th, 2009 - 5:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Abhisit Vejjajiva Bangkok, April 12 (DPA) Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency in Bangkok Sunday to quell anti-government protests that forced the cancellation of a major Asian summit the previous day.
A protest leader Jatuporn Promphan called for a popular uprising Sunday to overthrow what he described as an illegitimate government now that law and order had broken down, The Nation newspaper reported.

Protestors surrounded two armoured personal carriers parked near the upmarket Siam Paragon shopping mall in central Bangkok in the afternoon, according to witnesses.

Jakrapob Penkair, a strategist of the so-called Red Shirts, said the protestors were ready to fight a “brutal government in every possible way” and accused the military of surrounding innocent people holding a legal rally.

About 50 protestors loyal to fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra forced their way into the Interior Ministry to confront Abhisit.

Abhisit managed to leave the ministry after a mob attacked his car and were backed off when soldiers guarding him fired shots in the air. Officials later said the prime minister was not in his regular vehicle, but had switched to another one to exit the ministry.

Witnesses reported seeing tanks passing on a major street in mid-afternoon, and sources said some army units were being mobilised.

The prime minister said the government took the decision because the problems threatening social stability were escalating.

“The government has to declare the state of emergency to restore normalcy as soon as possible,” Abhisit said.

Authorities arrested protest organiser Arisamun Pongruengrong, who had led a mob Saturday to disrupt the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its dialogue partners’s summit in the seaside resort of Pattaya, 100 km south of Bangkok.

The arrest provoked fury from Arisamun’s followers, who began to converge on key government buildings and block traffic in the capital city.

Early Sunday, it appeared there could be a break in the protests for the important Buddhist New Year holiday. There were only about 2,000 protestors camped outside government house, police said.

Abhisit and his Democrat party government were widely criticised in the local media Sunday for the failure to stop the protestors from disrupting the ASEAN summit.

Jakrapob warned the government against using the military to crack down on the protestors. “This is a legitimate protest against an illegitimate government,” he said. “If he truly believes in democracy then he should hold an election and if he wins we will accept him.”

The protestors are demanding the resignation of Abhisit, who they say was named to head the government after anti-democratic meddling from elite royalists and other influential opponents of Thaksin, who was ousted by a coup in 2006.

The flamboyant former prime minister is a fugitive, having fled the country to avoid a two-year prison sentence for abuse of power.

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