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Samak vows not to quit as protesters close airports, rail lines

Article published on the 2008-08-30 Latest update 2008-08-30 13:26 TU

Samak leaves to meet the king(Photo: Reuters)

Samak leaves to meet the king
(Photo: Reuters)

Thailand's Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej met Kinig Bhumibol Adulyadej twice as opposition protesters occupied government offices for the fifth day. Samak told supporters he will not quit, despite the 15,000-strong rally in Bangkok that has forced him to work from defence complexes.

"I want to reassure the public that I will continue to carry on in my job. I will not surrender, I will not quit," Samak told a rally for "national reconciliation" called by his supporters.

On Saturday 45 guards from the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) broke into the main office building of Government House, where thousands have occupied the grounds, but their leaders told them to leave.

The PAD, which says that Samak's goverment is a front for deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, on Friday called for action outside the capital. Demonstrators then closed three airports and, while on reopened on Saturday, 15,000 passengers are stranded on the tourist island of Phuket.

About a quarter of the country's rail services have also halted, with nearly 250 drivers and mechanics calling in sick to support the protests.

PAD founder and media tycoon Sondhi Limthongkul, said on Saturday that there will be no more efforts to escalate the action for the moment.

"Today we will do nothing except wait for Samak to resign because that is our only aim," Sondhi told the protest camp.

Jacques-Chai Chonthongli at the advocacy group Focus on the Global South in Bagkok believes that Samak will make some concessions.

"We suspect that within the next one to two days there should be some political change; the minimum is a cabinet reshuffle," he told RFI.  "There’s a possibility that he resign from the post but will be voted in again by the parliament."

The PAD claims that popular democracy has encouraged corruption and has called for the royal family, the military and the traditional élite to play a greater role in the country's politics. It organised demonstrations which led to a military coup to topple Thaksin in 2006.

Samak has put off a planned visit to Japan next week.