Bangkok gripped by pro-Thaksin protests

Bangkok gripped by pro-Thaksin protests

On the second day of mass demonstrations against PM Abhisit, the marchers vow to halt regional summit, while taxis block the streets in Bangkok.

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Supporters of Thailand's ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra shout slogans during a demonstration Thursday in front of Government House in Bangkok. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has refused to resign, pitting his shaky coalition government against tens of thousands of protesters. 

BANGKOK - Thai protesters threatened Thursday to stop a summit of Asian leaders going ahead this weekend, opening up a new front on the second day of mass street rallies against Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Abhisit's four-month-old government faces its biggest challenge after more than 100,000 loyal supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra gathered Wednesday in Bangkok to demand that he quit office and call fresh elections.

Police said about 25,000 protesters were left Thursday outside the house of a royal aide whom they accuse of orchestrating the 2006 coup that toppled Thaksin, as well as at Abhisit's office and Bangkok's royal plaza.

The demonstrators later vowed to target the coastal resort town of Pattaya, where leaders from ASEAN and partners, including China and Japan, are due to meet.

"If we have to shut down the whole town then we have to, and it's a warning to friendly countries that the meeting may not happen," protest leader Nattawut Saikuar told reporters in Bangkok.

Security has been beefed up in Pattaya for the April 10-12 meet since Thaksin's so-called "Red Shirts" attacked Abhisit's motorcade in the town on Tuesday, smashing one of its windows.

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On the second day of mass demonstrations against PM Abhisit, the marchers vow to halt regional summit, while taxis block the streets in Bangkok

The summit has already been postponed from December, when protesters opposed to the previous, pro-Thaksin government shut down Bangkok's airports.

Those protests ended when a court forced Thaksin's allies from government, allowing British-born Abhisit to come to power but triggering a furious reaction from the billionaire's supporters.

Abhisit has reassured foreign leaders there would be no further disruption to the summit and remains defiant.

"I will not resign," he told reporters in Bangkok before travelling to Pattaya. "This is not the game, they cannot play like this... If they are sincere, the government is open to political reform."

Around 5,000 police and 2,000 soldiers have deployed to the resort, officials said.

In Bangkok, tensions escalated Thursday when about 100 taxi drivers sympathetic to Thaksin left their vehicles and blocked a key intersection in response to an appeal on the Red Shirt movement's radio station.

Traffic jams several kilometres long built up at the capital's Victory Monument. The government said it was negotiating with the cabbies but would use lifting equipment to remove the vehicles if the talks failed.