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Thousands occupy government buildings

Article published on the 2008-08-26 Latest update 2008-08-26 14:11 TU

Protestors cross the barrier around Government House.( Photo : Reuters )

Protestors cross the barrier around Government House.
( Photo : Reuters )

Tens of thousands of anti-government protestors broke through a police line and spilled into the Government House compound in Bangkok Tuesday. Protestors also took over the state television station and surrounded several key government buildings.

At least 20,000 people responded to a protest call by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) demanding Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s resignation. The PAD has been organising protests since May.

The PAD accuses Samak, who was elected in January, of running the country by proxy for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a military coup in 2006.

Samak vowed in a televised address that he would use “decisive action” to clear the protestors out of the government buildings and to restore calm. He said he has no plans to step down and that he would use military force if necessary.

Crowds have reportedly not entered the Government House itself, though they remain camped in the compound. Other protestors have broken police barriers and entered the Finance Ministry and the Bangkok Metropolitan Police headquarters.

PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul, who organized the protests in 2006 that led to Thaksin’s deposal, told crowds that today was “judgement day” and that he was ready to be arrested.

Thailand’s military chief, General Anupong Paojinda, urged calm and said he would not overthrow Samak’s democratically-elected government.

“The military will not stage a coup d’etat. The public must not panic and must carry on with their daily lives. The army will not get involved in politics,” Paojinda told reporters.

Police report that 3,000 officers have been deployed in the capital to control the crowds.