Page last updated at 06:30 GMT, Thursday, 9 October 2008 07:30 UK

Thai court drops treason charges

Anti-government protesters inside the compound of the Government House - 8/10/2008
Some powerful sections of Thai society support the protesters

Thailand's appeals court has thrown out insurrection charges against nine leaders of anti-government protests.

The court ruling said the treason charges were groundless.

But arrest warrants on lesser charges remain in force, and reports suggest the leaders may be willing to surrender to police. Two are already in custody.

Protesters have been occupying the grounds of government buildings for weeks, saying the government is a proxy for ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

The protests turned violent on Tuesday, when two people were killed in clashes.

Way out of crisis?

"Although the nine suspects have committed illegal acts, it's unreasonable to issue an arrest warrant on insurrection charges, thus the court revokes insurrection charges for all nine suspects," said the Appeals Court ruling.

Arrest warrants remain on less serious charges, reportedly including that of illegal assembly.

Two leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), Chamlong Srimuang and Chaiwat Sinsuwong, were arrested last week - helping to spark Tuesday's violent protests.

A lawyer for the remaining seven has said they may be ready to surrender to police if the more serious charges were dropped - paving the way for a possible way out of this political stand-off, says the BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok.

Without their most charismatic leaders, he says, the protests at Government House would probably soon fade.

But he says the basic problem remains: the protesters' loathing for Thaksin Shinawatra and those perceived as his allies.

The new prime minister, Somchai Wongsawat - who has refused to bow to their demands to quit - is Mr Thaksin's brother-in-law.

Mr Thaksin was overthrown in a military coup in 2006 and lives in exile in the UK.

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