31 Aug 2008

Thai parliament debates anti-govt protests

9:58 pm on 31 August 2008

More than 1,000 government supporters marched on Thailand's parliament as lawmakers began a debate on the street protests threatening to topple the Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.

The group avoided areas of Bangkok where anti-government protesters are massed, including thousands who are occupying Mr Samak's official compound vowing to stay until the prime minister quits.

Government offices in Bangkok have been besieged for a sixth day by an estimated 15,000 protesters of the so-called People's Alliance for Democracy.

They accuse him of acting as a puppet for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who they helped topple. Thaksin was ousted by a military coup in 2006 and has fled the country to avoid trial on corruption charges.

Mr Samak left Bangkok to meet the king on Saturday vowing not to bow to the PAD's demands. He refuses to step down or call new elections.

"I will not surrender, I will not quit," he told an audience at a prearranged event on national reconciliation.

[k] King silent

So far the king has remained silent. The king has little formal political power, but he holds enormous sway over his subjects and has acted as a referee during past political crises in his six decades on the throne.

The turmoil has raised fears of a new coup in a country that has seen 18 military takeovers since 1932.

Army chief General Anupong Paojinda has so far insisted that the military will not return to the streets.