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Page last updated at 13:38 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2008 14:38 UK

Thai capital stand-off continues

Police block a road outside Government House on 3 September 2008
Protesters have camped out in government buildings for over a week

A stand-off between protesters and the Thai government has shown no sign of easing, as a state of emergency in Bangkok entered a second day.

Thousands of demonstrators seeking the government's resignation remain in official compounds in the capital.

But a strike called by public sector unions started slowly, with most services reportedly unaffected.

In a separate development, Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag has resigned, reports from Thailand say.

Mr Tej has been foreign minister for just over a month. He was named after predecessor Noppodon Pattama stepped down amid a row with Cambodia over the border temple of Preah Vihear.

The reasons for his resignation remain unclear.

Deadlock

The crisis began more than a week ago, when members of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) occupied government buildings in an attempt to force the government to step down.

Thai PM denies army chief suggested he go

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej declared the state of emergency on Tuesday after clashes between pro- and anti-government groups left at least one person dead.

As the stand-off has developed, some unions have begun supporting the protesters.

An umbrella group of 43 unions had called for 200,000 public sector workers to come out on strike on Wednesday.

But reports suggested most employees had turned up at work. Some schools were shut in the capital, but power supplies and transport appeared not to have been greatly disrupted.

An anti-government protester camped out at Government House takes a nap on 3 September 2008

Protesters blocked access roads at the airport in the southern city of Hat Yai but flights out of Bangkok were continuing as normal.

In central Bangkok, the protesters remain defiant. They say the government is a front for Thaksin Shinawatra - the former prime minister, now in exile, whom the PAD was instrumental in removing in a coup in 2006.

"The PAD will not hold talks with the government or anyone," one of the PAD leaders, Somsak Kosaisuk, told a crowd. "The PAD will talk only after Samak has resigned."

The PAD has a passionate following in various parts of the country, especially Bangkok, and some powerful backers among the elite.

BANGKOK PROTESTS
26 Aug: Protesters occupy government buildings, demand the government step down
27 Aug: Authorities issue arrest warrants for nine protest leaders
28 Aug: PM Samak promises no use of force against the protesters
29 Aug: Police try to evict protesters but pull back; crowds blockade two regional airports
30 Aug: PM Samak rules out resignation, following a meeting with Thailand's king
31 Aug: Parliament meets for a special session on the protests
1 Sep: A late-night clash between pro- and anti-government groups leaves one person dead
2 Sep: PM Samak declares a state of emergency

But it has little support in most of rural Thailand, which voted strongly for Mr Samak, and Mr Thaksin before him. Thai society remains deeply divided over the issue.

The apparent failure of the strike is good news for the government, reports the BBC's Jonathan Head from Bangkok.

But the prime minister's attempt to contain the PAD protests with a state of emergency has also fallen flat.

The army has simply refused to exercise the extra powers he gave them, arguing that the conflict is a political one that cannot be solved by military intervention.

Mr Samak is now being urged to resign, by a number of very senior military and bureaucratic figures.

He is known to be a tough-minded and wily politician, but he is now such a divisive figure here it may prove impossible to end this paralysing deadlock without his resignation, our correspondent says.




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