4 Sep 2008

Thai PM refuses to quit as crisis drags on

6:44 pm on 4 September 2008

Defiant Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej refused to quit as his opponents vowed on Thursday to keep up a street campaign to unseat him, setting the scene for more political uncertainty.

Speaking on national radio amid widespread speculation that he would resign,

Samak also dismissed talk that he would call a snap election to defuse the protests.

"I will not jump ship, I will be in control," he said in a 50-minute address. "I can tell you I will not quit. I will not dissolve parliament. I will stay to protect democracy."

Later in the day, a government minister said the cabinet had in principle approved a plan to hold a referendum as a means to end the crisis. No further details were available.

The anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), barricaded inside the prime minister's official compound in Bangkok for a 10th day, vowed to stay until Mr Samak gave up.

"As long as he insists on staying on, we will not go anywhere. It doesn't matter how many days or years, or even into the next life," PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul told a crowd of cheering supporters.

The PAD, a coalition of businessmen, activists and academics, has been trying to unseat Mr Samak for over three months, accusing him of being an illegitimate proxy for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a 2006 coup and now in exile in London.

Analysts said the two sides had effectively precluded any chance of a compromise being thrashed out, and predicted more uncertainty ahead.