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Thousands Demand Thai Government's Resignation

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And now let's catch up on a couple of news stories that may be overshadowed by the political conventions. We begin in Thailand where a political crisis continues today. Thousands of demonstrators are occupying the grounds of the prime minister's office, and they are demanding the government's resignation.

NPR's Michael Sullivan reports from Bangkok.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN: The atmosphere at Bangkok's government house seemed largely festive for most of the day. Thousands of people gathered under umbrellas to beat the blazing sun, many eating boxed lunches as they sat next to the ceremonial cannon outside the building's main gate.

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: The demonstrators heard speaker after speaker from the People's Alliance for Democracy demand the resignation of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. One of those listening was retired telecommunications worker Thom Non(ph), 65, from Bangkok.

Mr. THOM NON (Retired Telecommunications Worker): A lot of people from all over the country came here, try ask him to get out (unintelligible). We have (unintelligible) the new government in a better way try to lead the country in a good direction with no corruption, have a good road map and so on.

SULLIVAN: The People's Alliance for Democracy, a loose-knit group of conservatives, royalists and some democracy activists, accuse the current government of simply being a front for deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, now in self-imposed exile to avoid several court cases pending against him.

Prayun Akalabawan(ph) is a PAD organizer.

Mr. PRAYUN AKALABAWAN (PAD Organizer): Thaksin (unintelligible) for the country. They have a lot of corruption.

SULLIVAN: But this government was democratically elected in December.

Mr. AKALABAWAN: No. They buy it. You're not thinking about election either absolutely of democracy. Because they're buying. For (unintelligible) they don't do nothing in the parliament. They're just thinking about sharing the constitution law. Because constitution law help Thaksin don't go through the court.

SULLIVAN: All they're doing, you're saying, is trying to change the constitution to protect Thaksin?

Mr. AKALABAWAN: Thaksin, yes.

SULLIVAN: The People's Alliance for Democracy is the same group that put hundreds of thousands on the streets in 2006 to demand the resignation of then-Prime Minister Thaksin. Fears those rallies could turn violent helped lead to the September 2006 coup that deposed Thaksin. The military insists it has no intention of launching another. Prime Minister Samak, meanwhile, is moving cautiously in an effort to bring the protests to a peaceful conclusion.

Hundreds of riot police have now moved into the compound at Government House, but have made no attempt to remove the demonstrators. Arrest warrants, meanwhile, have been issued for nearly a dozen PAD leaders in an effort to bring the protest to an end. But many demonstrators gathered at Government House today said they would stay, arrests or no, until the government stepped down, something Prime Minister Samak says he has no intention of doing.

Michael Sullivan, NPR News, Bangkok. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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