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.

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
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
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: General Manager

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of global logisti...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager - £70,000 OTE

£35000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Manager (Vice President...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Marketing Executive i...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable