Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Thailand: Protests Gain Momentum as Thai PM Refuses to Resign

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Thailand: Protests Gain Momentum as Thai PM Refuses to Resign

Article excerpt

Thailand protests entered their third day Monday, paralyzing parts of Bangkok. Earlier in the day, demonstrators thronged the military base where Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva is staying.

Thailand's prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, rejected calls Monday for his resignation as red-shirted opponents sought to expand their street campaign to unseat his government.

A long convoy of vehicles converged outside a military base where Mr. Abhisit is staying, paralyzing parts of the Thai capital. After a few hours, the protesters left the heavily fortified base and returned to their protest site in the heart of historic Bangkok for a third night of demonstrations, which attracted over 100,000 people on Sunday.

In a sign of the underlying tensions, several grenades were fired from the perimeter into an Army camp in another part of the city. Two soldiers were injured in the attack, which bore the hallmarks of other unexplained incidents in recent years. Thais on both sides blame provocateurs for stirring up trouble during political stand- offs to foment violence.

On Sunday, red-shirt leaders aligned with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had set a deadline of noon Monday for Abhisit to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections. As expected, Abhisit refused and defended his right to continue ruling the deeply divided country.

'The government has time on its side'

The standoff is set to continue for several days, as red-shirt leaders seek to rattle the government. But the difficulty of sustaining a nonstop rally by protesters who are mostly from outside Bangkok, where Thaksin's base is strongest, may start to tell.

"They're waiting each other out. But the government has time on its side," says Paul Quaglia, director of PSA Asia, a security consultant.

A senior Army officer said the turnout of protesters was below expectations and predicted that it would fizzle within a week. Government officials have reported much lower numbers than independent observers have, and there has been scant coverage on government-run TV channels. …

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