Analysts warn rallies could backfire if disruptions worsen
BANGKOK - Thousands of protesters besieging Thailand's main government complex refused to leave Wednesday as authorities scrambled to negotiate a peaceful end to the administration's most serious challenge yet.
As riot police moved in, leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) vowed to stay inside the Government House compound until Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej bows to their demands to step down.
Early scuffles between police and protesters who had camped out overnight led to minor injuries, deputy national police spokesman Major General Surapol Tuanthong said, but he insisted there would be no violence.
"They are not going to disperse the crowd - we are trying to negotiate," Surapol told AFP.
On Tuesday, up to 35,000 demonstrators had stormed a state-run television station, invaded the grounds of Government House and besieged at least three ministries, stepping up a campaign to bring down Samak's administration.
Police said more than 10,000 protesters remained inside the compound, while an AFP correspondent at the scene saw hundreds of police, some with batons and shields, entering the enclosure.
Police refused to disclose how many officers were stationed in and around the complex, only that it was enough to maintain law and order.
Senior officers have been trying to negotiate with the protest leaders but "so far there is no positive response from them", deputy government spokesman Nuttawut Saikuae earlier told state television.
The PAD movement, which has been protesting since May, says that Samak is a proxy running the country on behalf of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup. Samak, who won elections last December and formed his coalition government in February, has said he will not resign.
Political analyst Thitinan Pongsudhirak said the protest could backfire as Bangkok residents tire of the disruption.
"They have broken the law and it could be a serious setback for them," he said. "The government has a lot of options."