Thai democracy protests escalate

Protesters trying to overthrow Thailand's government have attacked Bangkok's police headquarters as demonstrations against the Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej, spread from the capital and disrupted air and rail services.

Police fired what appeared to be tear gas at the 2,000-strong crowd, taking part in escalating protests that have raised fears of major violence and military intervention less than two years after a coup in September 2006.

Protesters also forced airports to close in the tourist destinations of Phuket and Krabi and the southern town of Hat Yai, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded.

Striking rail workers halted 30 per cent of services nationwide, and airline and port workers were urged by their union leaders to take sick leave.

In Bangkok, where protesters have occupied the prime minister's compound since Tuesday, some of Mr Samak's advisers urged him to impose emergency rule, according to two government sources.

"It has been proposed as an option to him," said one source, who declined to be named.

But Mr Samak, who leads a coalition government elected in December, declined to get tough with the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which began its protest campaign on 25 May.

"I have several tools at my disposal, but I am not using any of them because I want to keep things calm," he told reporters after meeting top military and police officers.

"I will not quit. If you want me out, do it by law, not by force. This is embarrassing in front of the world."

Imposing a state of emergency would allow the government to deploy soldiers to disperse the protesters, although the army chief Anupong Paochinda said the situation did not warrant it.

"It will hurt the country's image and worsen the country's situation," he said, nearly two years after the coup that removed the prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra but failed to heal the deep divisions in Thai society.

Thai shares have fallen 23 per cent since the street campaign began in May amid fears of policy paralysis at a time of stuttering economic growth and bloodshed on the streets.

The protesters' assault on police headquarters came hours after riot officers tried to deliver an eviction order and clashed with demonstrators barricaded inside the compound. "We are trying to deal with the protesters as gently as possible," said a police spokesman, Surapol Thuanthong.

After the scuffles, the Civil Court said that it had retracted its earlier eviction order after the demonstrators appealed against the ruling.

The People's Alliance for Democracy, a group of businessmen, academics and activists whose 2005 protests against Mr Thaksin contributed to the coup against him, have accused Mr Samak of being an illegitimate proxy of the former prime minister, who is now living in exile in London. Mr Samak has denied the accusation.

"Today is the Judgement Day. It is the People's Revolution and we must win," said the alliance leader Sondhi Limthongkul after raids on government offices and a state TV station on Monday.

Mr Sondhi is one of nine PAD leaders charged with insurrection, a crime that can carry the death penalty.

The alliance also proclaims itself to be a defender of the revered King Bhumibol Adul-yadej against an alleged Thaksin plan to turn Thailand into a republic – a charge vehemently denied by both Mr Thaksin and the government.

The protesters have barricaded themselves in the 11-acre compound behind razor wire and car tyres. Sentries armed with bars and golf clubs poured a mixture of gasoline and shampoo across the road, turning it into an ice-rink.

At the barricades, alliance supporters held aloft pictures of King Bhumibol, shouting "We love the King. We love Thailand". Inside the compound, thousands sat on plastic sheeting, clapping and cheering speeches by the group's leaders.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?