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Thai Govt rejects protesters' calls to quit

world Updated: Feb 02, 2009 09:15 IST

AFP
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Thailand's deputy prime minister on Sunday rejected an ultimatum by thousands of protesters demanding the government step down, raising the prospect of more rallies in the turmoil-wracked kingdom.

Suthep Thaugsuban, one of three deputy prime ministers, said supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra were free to repeat Saturday's mass rally, but insisted the new Democrat Party-led government would stay in office.

"This is not the time for the dissolution of parliament -- people want the government to go ahead with administering the country," he told reporters.

About 30,000 Thaksin sympathisers clad in their signature red shirts and waving banners reading "Bring Back Democracy" marched to the prime minister's Government House offices in Bangkok late Saturday before dispersing.

Their main targets are figures in the six-week-old government who are linked to the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a royalist group whose protest campaign last year helped topple the previous Thaksin-linked ruling party.

The so-called "Red Shirts" yesterday forced their way through several roadblocks manned by baton-wielding police and soldiers, as prolonged political tensions between deeply divided factions showed no sign of ending.

Protest leaders say they will return to the streets in 15 days unless Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and other figures linked to the PAD blockade late last year of Bangkok's two airports resign and are prosecuted.

They are also calling for the dissolution of parliament, new elections and the reinstatement of the 1997 constitution.