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Page last updated at 07:36 GMT, Sunday, 12 April 2009 08:36 UK

Leader of Thai protests arrested

Arisman Pongruengrong, 10 April
Arisman is said to be co-operating with the authorities

Thai police have arrested the leader of the protests which forced the cancellation of a major Asian summit.

Arisman Pongruengrong was detained as Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva vowed to prosecute the protesters whose campaign he said had tipped into illegality.

Later, the government declared a state of emergency across Bangkok and the surrounding areas, state TV reported.

On Saturday demonstrators calling for his resignation stormed the summit venue in the seaside resort of Pattaya.

Mr Arisman, who spearheaded the protests by supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was arrested after returning to his home in Bangkok on Sunday.

He was charged with inciting protesters to kidnap the prime minister and cause unrest, police said.

A police spokesman said he was co-operating with the authorities.

"There will be further arrests, but right now the police are gathering evidence," the spokesman added.

We will continue to protest in Bangkok until Abhisit resigns
Jakrapob Penkair
Opposition leader

Correspondents say the storming of the Pattaya conference centre was deeply embarrassing for Mr Abhisit.

There was little resistance from the security forces.

The tactics of the pro-Thaksin activists mirror those of their royalist rivals last year: they too paralysed government activity by targeting key venues.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says there is no question the pro-Thaksin protesters broke the law.

But, our correspondent adds, the problem is that Mr Abhisit rode to power on the back of protests that were just as illegal, and the PM may look hypocritical if he only goes after the red-shirted protesters who embarrassed him.

'We have won'

"The next three to four days will be crucial for the government to prove itself in restoring peace and order in the country," Mr Abhisit said on TV on Sunday.

Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva at U-Tapao military airport, 11 April
Abhisit Vejjajiva has suffered a major embarrassment

"The government will take action against those who were involved in the incident yesterday without bias."

Another protest leader, Jakrapob Penkair, said in Bangkok that the movement against Mr Abhisit had won a victory.

"We have won, we have stopped them from holding a summit," he said.

"But we have not achieved our goal yet. We will continue to protest in Bangkok until Abhisit resigns."

Pre-summit street protests in the capital this week drew up to 100,000 people.

Mr Thaksin himself, who remains in self-imposed exile to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption, has welcomed the protest in Pattaya.

"I thank the Red Shirts in Pattaya who showed strength," he told a rally of supporters in Bangkok by telephone late on Saturday.

"In the next few days we will see real change."

Officials say months of turmoil have lost the country $6bn in tourist revenue, just as the economy is taking a hit from collapsing exports.


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