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Protesters plan 3-day Thai siege

THOUSANDS of protesters marched on Thailand's seat of government yesterday to demand that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva step down.

Leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) planned a three-day siege of Government House in what appeared to be a bid to embarrass the government as it prepares to host a weekend summit of Southeast Asian leaders.

"The leaders of this government have toured many countries to try to win foreign recognition, but they have learned that this is a dictatorship in disguise," UDD leader Jakrapop Penkhair told the crowd.

UDD leaders pledged not to cause trouble or storm the government compound, occupied for three months last year by the People's Alliance for Democracy, a rival protest group that played a key role in ousting former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006.

Abhisit, who led his cabinet to Hua Hin yesterday to inspect the summit venue, plans to return to his office tomorrow. Some 2,000 police and soldiers armed with batons and shields are guarding the compound in old Bangkok.

"I still have a positive view that there won't be any violence and that we can enter to work," Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said. UDD leader Jatuporn Prompan said if police disrupted the rally, protesters would move to Hua Hin.

Thailand canceled the Association of South East Asian Nations meeting late last year after PAD cadres occupied Bangkok's airports in a campaign that helped to push the pro-Thaksin government from power.


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