30 Aug 2008

Thai protests continue

9:59 pm on 30 August 2008

Thailand's Prime Minister says he will not resign despite mounting anti-government protests.

Samak Sundaravej held an unexpected meeting on Saturday with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who normally stays above politics.

Thousands of protesters continue to occupy government offices in Bangkok, three regional airports remain closed, and rail travel has been disrupted.

The protesters accuse the government of being a front for the exiled former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Thaksin was ousted by a military coup in 2006 and has fled the country to avoid facing trial over corruption charges.

Earlier, the military told Mr Samak to negotiate with protesters occupying a government compound in Bangkok.

But the head of the army has dismissed rumours of a coup.

The courts have ordered protesters to leave the site and have issued arrest warrants for nine of the ringleaders on charges including rebellion.

The protests are being led by a conservative group called the People's Alliance for Democracy.

Outside Bangkok, thousands of protesters have forced the closure of three airports. Phuket International Airport was the first to shut, followed by Hat Yai and Krabi airports.

State Railways said 248 drivers and mechanics called in sick on Friday, halting a quarter of all services in the kingdom.