Heavily armed police, troops deployed at Thai airports (Lead)

November 28th, 2008 - 9:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangkok, Nov 28 (Xinhua) The Thai government, besieged by massive protests demanding its resignation, deployed heavily armed police contingents Friday evening at Suvarnahbhumi International Airport taken over by protesters.Armoured military vehicles were deployed near the Don Muang airport, also under siege of the protesters.

The opposition People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has been spearheading a massive protest, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Somchai Wonsawat and had besieged the two airports to prevent the premier from returning home from a summit meeting of the Asia Pacific countries in the Peruvian capital Lima. The siege has totally disrupted air service from the two airports.

Somchai later landed at Chiang Mai, 550 km north of Bangkok, and based himself there since his return Wednesday.

PAD supporters at both the airports were seen distributing medical equipment and gas masks.

Minutes before, the Metropolitan Police Bureau issued its first emergency statement, asking protesters to leave the Don Mueang Airport immediately.

Meanwhile, PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul told protesters the party would never give in and negotiate with the police to withdraw their siege.

“PAD leaders will never negotiate with the police,” Sondhi told the crowd at the government House.

The Thai government Friday removed the country’s police chief from his post and shifted him to a relatively unimportant position.

Prateep Tanprasert has taken over as the caretaker police commissioner-general in place of General Phatcharawat Wongsuwan who was shifted to the prime minister’s office.

Phatcharawat’s removal came less then 24 hours after the police was ordered to disperse anti-government protesters from the Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports of Bangkok, both of which have been closed due to the protest.

The Nation news network said, “The removal revived rumours about a military coup, as speculation revolved around whether army chief Anupong Paochinda would be the next transfer target.”

The army has shown reluctance to be engaged in any drastic action against the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy protesters, the report said.

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