30 August 2008
Thailand Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej says he will not resign
despite growing pressure for him to step down. The Thai leader's vow
came as anti-government protesters
Speaking to a crowd of cheering supporters Saturday, Thai Prime Minister, Samak Sundarvej vowed to resist calls by anti-government protesters for him to resign, saying he would stand up to the threats.
Earlier, Mr. Samak met with the country's monarch, King Bhumipol Adulyadej, briefing the king on the five days of anti-government protests that have pushed the country into a fresh political crisis.
Representatives from the seven month old six-party coalition government on Saturday gave their backing to Mr. Samak's leadership while calling for a special parliamentary session to debate possible solutions to the crisis.
The anti-government protests, led by the People's Alliance for Democracy are calling for the entire cabinet of Mr. Samak to resign. The protesters accuse Mr. Samak of being too close to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and is accused of corruption.
On Friday Thai police tried to force demonstrators from the government administration compound. Brief scuffles occurred before the police pulled back.
Panitan Wattanayagorn, a political scientist from Chulalongkorn University, says the prime minister has yet to address the issues raised by the protesters, especially concerns over the influence of Mr. Thaksin.
"This is, of course, a political crisis," said Panitan. "On top of these battles the political demands have not been met or entered by the administration - especially the Prime Minister. So even though they can arrest and disperse and arrest some of the protesters many expect the protesters will regroup, not only in Bangkok but in various places.
Thailand's national rail system was locked up Saturday after national train services were disrupted for a second day after rail workers failed to turn up for work. This followed moves by state enterprise unions to support the PAD.
Sunai Pasuk, Thailand representative for the U.S. based, Human Rights Watch, says moves by State Enterprise Unions to lend support to the PAD will deepen the crisis.
"A political crisis like this will not end with one crackdown or one raid," he said. "There will be an aftermath, a long standing confrontation between the two sides now that at least the state enterprise unions are going to join the PAD as well."
Mr. Samak has accused the anti-government protesters of seeking to trigger a military coup against his government. On Friday he met with senior military officials. But the military has said it does not have a plan to stage a coup. The last military coup, in 2006, led to the ouster of former Prime Minister, Thaksin.