Riot police move on Thai protesters at compound

Defiant protesters scuffled with riot police in Bangkok on Friday as a siege of the prime minister's compound aimed at forcing his resignation dragged into a fourth day.


BANGKOK - Thai riot police scuffled with demonstrators
barricaded in the prime minister's compound on Friday
as they delivered an eviction order against the group
seeking to oust the government.

Police armed with batons and shields posted the court order
on lampposts and iron gates in the compound occupied by the
People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in a four-day standoff
that has rattled investors.

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.

Witnesses said teargas was fired but police denied it.

Police spokesman Surapol Thuanthong said they only intended
to help court officials deliver the eviction order.
"We are trying to deal with the protesters as gently as
possible. We are persuading them to leave the compound and will
not do anything to those who follow the court order," he told

The PAD, whose 2005 protests against then Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatra contributed to his removal in a coup a year
later, urged their supporters to gather at the compound until
the current elected administration fell.

"Move in and circle around me. We can't let them seize our
stage too easily," retired general and PAD leader Chamlong
Srimuang told the cheering crowd.

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, which some
newspapers criticised for going too far.

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, with sentries armed
with bars and golf clubs to repel the police.

Inside the compound, thousands of PAD supporters were
seated on plastic sheeting, clapping and cheering speeches by
the group's leaders.

Some held aloft pictures of King Bhumibol, shouting "We
love the King. We love Thailand".

Thailand's stock market turned lower after the riot police
moved in. The index opened higher but was down 0.51 percent at
the midsession break, bucking the trend elsewhere in Asia.

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.

Analysts said the standoff was likely to drag on as long as
the government avoided a violent confrontation that could
prompt the military to intervene.

Army commanders have pledged to stay in their barracks for
now, but Samak faced new pressure from state rail workers who
began a partial strike on Thursday.

"We have told our union members to call a leave of absence
to join the rally in Bangkok to oust this government, which has
been damaging the country over the past seven months," State
Railway of Thailand union leader Savit Kaewvan told Reuters.

Savit, who is also head of the umbrella group of all the
state enterprises' labour unions with 200,000 members, said he
expected other state unions to call for strikes.

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