Thai protesters threaten Asian summit

Thai protest leaders Thursday vowed to gather in the coastal city of Pattaya and stop a summit of Asian leaders due to photo_1239281324940-1-1begin Friday, opening up a new front in their campaign to unseat the government. Addressing thousands of demonstrators in the capital, rally leader Jatuporn Prompan told the crowd that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s refusal to quit had spurred them to take bolder measures.

The premier is due to open the three-day regional summit in Pattaya, welcoming leaders from regional bloc ASEAN along with key partners including Japan and China. “Our leaders’ resolution is to obstruct the meeting in Pattaya with a rally of our ‘Red Shirt’ people,” Jatuporn said, referring to the colour that signifies their allegiance to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. “We will not allow the government to host this meeting,” he said.

Jatuporn said former pro-Thaksin MP Arisman Pongreungrong would leave shortly for Pattaya, where he would gather Red Shirts from nearby towns to block the road leading to the summit’s hotel venue. “Abhisit should not get another chance (to host this meeting). If we have to shut down the whole town then we have to and it’s a warning to friendly countries that the meeting may not happen,” fellow rally leader Nattawut Saikuar told reporters.

The leaders vowed not to “return home with empty hands,” but promised to minimise unrest. “If there is any incident please be aware that we have no other option,” said Jatuporn. Thaksin’s supporters began their street campaign two weeks ago, calling for Abhisit’s three-month-old government to step down and call fresh elections.

But after fugitive Thaksin gave a series of nightly addresses by videolink calling for a “people’s revolution,” around 100,000 of his supporters gathered Wednesday, echoing last year’s tactics of their rival, yellow-clad protesters.

The Red Shirts had targeted the premier’s offices and the home of a key royal adviser they believe instigated the coup in 2006 that unseated Thaksin. They remained at Government House Thursday but more than a 1,000 protesters moved to join 100 taxi drivers who used their cars to block Bangkok’s traffic at a key intersection.

In the first known incidence of violence, a group of Red Shirts attacked the prime minister’s motorcade during his visit to Pattaya Tuesday, but Abhisit reassured foreign leaders there would be no disruption to the summit. “This is not the game, they cannot play like this,” said Abhisit, who has refused to resign. “If they are sincere the government is open to political reform.”

Source: France 24, 09 April 2009

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