Thai protests spread to disrupt rail and air links

Anti-government protests forced Phuket airport to close and disrupted rail services in Thailand on Friday, piling pressure on Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's seven-month old government.

As demonstrations spread from the capital, where protesters have been occupying the prime minister's compound since Tuesday, some of Samak's advisers pushed him to impose emergency rule, two government sources said.



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



They said Samak had earlier met with top military and police officers to discuss the growing protests, led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), that have sparked fears of major violence and rattled investors.



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



Less than two years after a coup against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Anupong said another putsch would not resolve the deep divisions in Thai society.



"A coup would not solve anything. It will hurt the country's image and worsen the country's situation," he told reporters.



There was no immediate comment from Samak who faced new pressure as the PAD blocked roads to the airport in Phuket, suspending flights to the major tourist destination, a Thai Airways spokeswoman said.



The airport at Krabi, another southern beach destination, was also closed.



State rail workers began a strike that halted 15 percent of services nationwide, a union spokesman said, and similar actions were being mulled by unions at other state agencies.



Earlier, riot police scuffled with demonstrators barricaded inside the PM's compound as they delivered an eviction order against the group, whose campaign to oust the government is now three months old.



Police briefly detained at least 15 protesters and took up positions around the PAD-controlled area, but they did not move to evict the 4,000-strong crowd inside.



"We are trying to deal with the protesters as gently as possible," Police spokesman Surapol Thuanthong told reporters.



The PAD, whose 2005 protests against then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra contributed to his removal in a coup a year later, urged more supporters to gather until the current elected administration fell.



"Today is the Judgement Day. It is the People's Revolution and we must win," PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul told the cheering crowd from atop the rock concert-like like platform that now sits on the PM's front lawn.



Nine PAD leaders have been charged with insurrection, a crime that can carry the death penalty, after violent raids on government offices and a state TV station on Monday. Most domestic newspapers said the raids were too much.



The motley group of businessmen, academics and activists launched the street campaign on May 25, accusing Samak's coalition government of being an illegitimate proxy of Thaksin, now in exile in London.



The PAD also proclaims itself to be a defender of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej against a supposed Thaksin plan to turn Thailand into a republic - a charge vehemently denied by both Thaksin and the government.



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



At the barricades, PAD 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.



Thailand's stock market turned lower after the riot police moved in, but later recovered to end the day slightly higher.



Thai shares have fallen 23 percent since the street campaign began in May amid fears of everything from policy paralysis at a time of stuttering economic growth to bloodshed on the streets.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Life and Style
i100

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
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

Business Analyst – 2 year fixed term contract – Kent – Circa £55k

£45000 - £55000 Per Annum 31 days holiday, pension, healthcare, annual bonus: ...

**SEN Primary Teacher Serf Unit **

£110 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experie...

Experienced Foundation Teacher

£100 - £222 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recruiting f...

SEN Learning Support Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: SEN TA's apply now! West Midlands

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week