Royalist protesters storm offices of Thai premier

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Thousands of royalist protesters stormed the compound of the Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, a TV station and several ministries yesterday in a co-ordinated attempt to unseat his seven-month-old coalition government.

Mr Samak urged the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) to pack up and go home, accusing them of breaking the law after three months of hitherto peaceful demonstrations in central Bangkok.

"They want bloodshed in the country. They want the military to come out and stage a coup again," he told foreign journalists at army headquarters, where he held a weekly cabinet meeting after protesters blockaded his Government House offices. "We don't count by days. We count by hours. We think by tomorrow it will be finished," he said. He made no mention of any need to impose emergency rule but a spokesman for the national police, Surapol Thuanthong, said police would seek court approval today to arrest the PAD leaders.

Mr Samak said 85 people had been arrested so far in the protests, which accuse him of being an illegitimate proxy of the ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra and seeking to turn Thailand into a republic, which Mr Samak denies.

"I won't yield. My cabinet won't yield. The military and the police won't yield," Mr Samak said.

The stock market fell by 2.5 per cent amid fears of violence. It has shed nearly 23 per cent since the PAD, a group of monarchist businessmen and academics, launched its campaign to unseat the government in May. The baht eased to 34.25 against the dollar, its weakest since November, from a close of 34.09 on Monday.

The PAD's leader, Sondhi Limthongkul, speaking to several thousand supporters on the Government House lawn, vowed to stay until the government fell.

"I won't leave until there is a political change. If you want me to leave, you will have to kill me and take my body out of here," he said to thunderous applause from demonstrators waving Thai flags and yellow banners representing the monarchy.

Earlier, thousands of protesters stormed the state broadcaster NBT and the ministries of finance, agriculture and transport.