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Page last updated at 16:24 GMT, Tuesday, 31 March 2009 17:24 UK

Thailand cabinet cancels meeting

A Thai protester flashes a victory sign as he wears a mask of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra
The protestors are supporters of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra

Protesters in Thailand have been told to stop blocking access to government offices in the capital, Bangkok.

A court issued the order hours after the government called off its weekly cabinet meeting as thousands of people sealed off access to Government House.

The protesters say Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva came to power illegitimately and should resign.

Mr Abhisit has been forced to stay away from Government House since the demonstrations began six days ago.

His opponents say his own government is so paralysed it cannot even hold meetings.

He has now left for the G20 summit in Britain, where he is due to represent South-East Asian countries.

Mr Abhisit took office in December after a court dissolved the previous government following months of protests similar to the ones being staged now.

The protesters, supporters of former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, are calling for fresh elections, saying Mr Abhisit came to power illegally.

'Illegitimate government'

Explaining the decision to cancel the latest cabinet meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuaksuban said: "We do not want violence. We do not want a confrontation."

Anti-government protesters outside Government House
If they can't even hold a meeting, how can they lead the country? It's time to return the power to the people!
Protest leader Nattawut Sai-kua

The red-shirted demonstrators, from the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), say the current government is a puppet of the military.

On the streets outside Government House, protest leaders took it in turns to address the huge crowd of demonstrators.

"It is clear that we have managed to paralyse this illegitimate government," said one leader, Nattawut Sai-kua.

"If they can't even hold a meeting, how can they lead the country? It's time to return the power to the people!"

The protests - now in their sixth day - are the biggest by Thaksin supporters since a protest camp outside parliament broke up in February.

Mr Thaksin was ousted by the military in 2006 and has been living abroad in self-imposed exile. Thai politics have been in turmoil ever since.



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