Page last updated at 11:21 GMT, Wednesday, 8 April 2009 12:21 UK

Mass Thai protest over leadership


The BBC's Alastair Leithead among the protesters in Bangkok

Protesters in Thailand have surrounded the home of an influential royal adviser in the capital, accusing him of engineering a coup three years ago.

The demonstrators loyal to ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra converged on Gen Prem Tinsulanonda's home in Bangkok.

They also want to force current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva from office as they say he came to power illegally.

With police deployed at major sites around the capital, Mr Abhisit dismissed calls for his resignation.

The long political crisis has yet to end despite a court's removal of Mr Thaksin's allies from government.

Mr Thaksin was deposed in the 2006 coup and faces jail if he returns from exile.

Red shirts gather

Police said about 30,000 red-clad supporters of Mr Thaksin had gathered outside the main government offices in the capital, where demonstrators have been staging a sit-in for the past two weeks.

Anti-government demonstrator with Thaksin Shinawatra mask - 26/3/2009

The protest comes a day after Mr Abhisit's motorcade was attacked following a cabinet meeting in the resort town of Pattaya.

The demonstrators, from the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), accuse the current government of being a puppet of the military.

Protest leaders are calling Wednesday their "D-Day" in their efforts to push Mr Abhisit to dissolve his four-month-old government and hold elections.

Mr Thaksin, who is living in an undisclosed foreign country, said late on Tuesday that the protests would mark an "historic day for Thailand".

"We will come peacefully but we need as many people as possible to show that the Thai people will not tolerate these politics any more," he said in a speech via video link to supporters outside Government House.

Plea for calm

British-born Mr Abhisit came to power in December after a court ruling removed Thaksin's allies from government.

Pro-Thaksin supporters demonstrate in Bangkok - 26/3/2009
The pro-Thaksin lobby is on Bangkok's streets, calling for fresh elections

At the time, yellow-shirted anti-Thaksin protesters had closed the country's airports for a week.

The Thai government is preparing to host leaders of 16 Asian nations from 10-12 April in the coastal resort of Pattaya.

Mr Abhisit said the meeting would go ahead as planned, despite the demonstrations.

"There's a group of people wanting to create chaos, but the government will do everything to restrain them," he told local television.

"If there's rioting, we will have to do something. I can affirm there will be no violence starting from the government's side."

An earlier summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations had to be postponed due to the political protests which helped usher Mr Abhisit into power.

The country remains deeply divided between Mr Thaksin's followers among the urban and rural poor and his foes in the traditional power cliques of the military and bureaucracy.

The Bank of Thailand has cut its key interest rate by 25 basis points to 1.25%, the fourth reduction in four months as the country struggles with a weak economy.

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