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Thaksin's supporters to exert mounting pressure on Thai PM

ANTI-GOVERNMENT demonstrators in Thailand said they will not take over Bangkok's airports - as protesters did last year - but they will exert mounting pressure until the prime minister steps down.

Several thousand protesters surrounded the office of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for a third day yesterday although the numbers had dwindled from a high of about 30,000 on Thursday.

"We will stay indefinitely," said a protest leader, Nattawut Sai-kua, adding that protests will also branch out to other locations that he declined to name. "Our strategy is to keep applying pressure. The strategy will be adapted daily."

The demonstrators are supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a military coup in 2006 for alleged corruption and abuse of power. They say Abhisit's government came to power illegitimately three months ago and should step aside so new elections can be held. Abhisit has rejected their calls.

This week's protests are the latest episode in Thailand's long-running political turmoil, which has become a tug-of-war between Thaksin's supporters and opponents.

"We're not going to seize the airports," Nattawut said. "We're not breaking into government house or destroying any public property."

But Thaksin said on Friday via video from Africa to raucous cheers from the crowd: "Dissolve the parliament and call fresh elections. This way the country can move past the crisis.

"We want to see true democracy in Thailand. We want to see justice," Thaksin said. Abhisit avoided his office on Friday but said he planned to return tomorrow.


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