15 Apr 2009

Arrest warrants issued over Thai protests

9:42 pm on 15 April 2009

Arrest warrants have been issued in Thailand for 14 leaders of anti-government protests, which ended on Tuesday, after forcing the cancellation of an Asian summit at the weekend.

Four leaders of the red-shirted protesters, supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, surrendered to the government after calling off a three-week siege of Government House.

Protesters had forced the cancellation of an Asian summit in the resort of Pattaya on Saturday.

Several thousand demonstrators had retreated to the grounds of Government House after clashes with security forces and local residents on Monday, in which two people were shot dead and more than 120 injured.

Warrants for the arrest of Mr Thaksin and 13 leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship accuse them of violating a state of emergency. Four were already in custody.

The state of emergency remained in force in Bangkok and surrounding areas.

The government extended the New Year's holiday for the rest of the week for "public safety" in case the red shirts regroup in Thaksin strongholds and come back to the capital.

Standard & Poor's downgraded its local currency sovereign rating for Thailand on Tuesday and said political tension would remain high, whichever side was in power.

Tourists cancel bookings

A tour operator in Bangkok is feeling the impact of political unrest in Thailand as clients cancel holiday plans.

Thierry Roder, from tour company East West Siam, says business had only just begun to bounce back from last year's protests which closed Thailand's two main airports, when the latest trouble began.

Clients are cancelling bookings, staff salaries have been reduced and he is arranging a loan to keep his company going.