Thai PM warns legal action against opposition leaders (Lead)

August 26th, 2008 - 5:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangkok, Aug 26 (DPA) Thailand’s Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej Tuesday said his government would not be forced from power and warned of legal action against opposition leaders, as anti-government protesters broke into a state TV station as part of their showdown with the government.Sundaravej said his government was legally elected and would not step down. He added that the government would take legal action against five leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a coalition of opposition leaders who demand the government to step down.

“I will stay to protect the country,” he said at a press conference. “I will not leave for anywhere.”

Earlier Tuesday, PAD supporters broke into the National Broadcasting Service of Thailand (NBS) in Bangkok and demanded Samak and his cabinet step down.

Hundreds of PAD supporters stormed into the NBS building and forced the channel to halt broadcasting for few hours before the police arrested some 80 protesters.

Reports said that some PAD supporters were still in the compound by mid-afternoon although it was unclear who had control of the building.

The police threatened to arrest PAD leaders Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuang but had yet to do so.

Sondhi called Tuesday “the last whistle blow” in the PAD’s efforts to topple Samak’s government.

PAD protesters gathered in strategic parts of Bangkok to have maximum impact, including breaking into the compound surrounding Government House to prevent the holding of the weekly cabinet meeting.

PAD leaders said they would not enter the building.

To get away from protesters, Samak moved the meeting to the Royal Thai Armed Forces headquarters, where Supreme Commander Boonsang Niampradit and military chiefs also held a separate meeting on the unrest.

The PAD organised months of protests against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was eventually ousted in a bloodless coup in September 2006 on charges of corruption, dividing the nation, and undermining democracy and the monarchy.

With Sondhi’s backing, the PAD now is trying to bring down the government of Samak, a political ally of Thaksin.

The PAD has been calling for Samak’s resignation for the past few months after the government approved a motion to amend the 2007 constitution.

Protest leaders charged the amendments are aimed at clearing Thaksin of corruption charges and paving the way for his return to power.

Thaksin, a billionaire businessman, used populist policies to claim the premiership from 2001 to 2006, winning himself a huge following among Thailand’s poor but turning the political elite against him when his growing monopoly on power led to perceived
abuses for his personal gain.

After spending 17 months in exile in the post-coup period, Thaksin returned to Thailand in February but fled again this month. He is now seeking asylum in England.

The protests continued to be about Thaksin Tuesday. “Thaksin is not a political refugee but a criminal evading an arrest warrant,” read the largest banner, on the side of a truck outside the Public Relations Department, where 10,000 to 20,000 demonstrators gathered.

The police said there were more than 10,000.

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