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Pressure grows on Thai prime minister to resign
APTOPIX Thailand Po 6259269
Beside a portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, anti-government protesters welcome countryside villagers to join the ongoing demonstration through the fence of the Government House compound in Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday, Aug. 30, 2008. Demonstrators continue to occupy the facility and surrounding area demanding Prime Minster Samak Sundaravej resign. - photo by Associated Press
    BANGKOK, Thailand — Thailand’s prime minister vowed Saturday that he would not resign even as pressure mounted with anti-government protesters occupying his headquarters for a fifth day Saturday and disrupting rail and air service.
    Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej also called an emergency session of parliament Sunday so that both houses can debate the crisis and try to resolve it through political means, said Surachai Phuprasert, a top aide to Samak.
    ‘‘I, the prime minister, have come to office in the righteous way and I won’t resign,’’ Samak said during a televised ceremony for the royal family. ‘‘I will not back down. I will rule this country and will lead it through all of the problems.’’
    Thousands of protesters remained camped out at the prime minister’s official compound, known as Government House, in Bangkok where leaders called for 1 million people to join their ranks to demand an end to Samak’s seven-month tenure.
    The crowd size has ranged from 2,000 to about 30,000, with numbers reaching around 10,000 Saturday.
    ‘‘The protest has already developed into a people’s revolution,’’ protest leader Sondhi Limthongkul told The Associated Press. ‘‘I do believe that Samak is going to resign.’’
    Saying that Western-style democracy has allowed corruption to flourish, the protest group wants a new government with a parliament in which most of the lawmakers are appointed and only 30 percent elected.
    Late Saturday, Samak received key backing from his six-party coalition, which said it would not dissolve parliament. Instead, leaders said they would use Sunday’s emergency session of parliament to ‘‘solve the country’s problems.’’
    Samak had requested a Saturday meeting with Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej at his seaside palace in Hua Hin, south of the capital Bangkok. There was no confirmation late Saturday from either Samak or the palace on whether the meeting took place.
    In an apparent effort to end speculation that the king would seek his resignation, Samak said he had requested the meeting to brief the monarch on the political situation.
    Bhumibol is a constitutional monarch with no formal political role but he has repeatedly brought calm in times of turbulence during his 60 years on the throne.
    Also Saturday, international airports in the southern beach towns of Phuket and Krabi were closed for a second day. Protesters occupied the runways, preventing flights from departing and arriving, and there was no indication of when the airports would reopen, authorities said. Hat Yai airport, also in the south, reopened Saturday.
    Bangkok’s two airports were not affected by the strikes, the airport authority said.
    Hundreds of railway workers continued their work stoppage by taking emergency sick leave, forcing the cancellation of more than 70 passenger trains throughout the country, said State Railways of Thailand spokesman Pairat Rojcharoen-ngarm.
    The country’s influential army commander, Gen. Anupong Paochinda, rejected a request by Samak on Friday to declare a state of emergency, a top army official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information. Anupong has vowed that the army will not intervene and has called for resolving the crisis by political means.
    The Chart Thai Party, a key member of Samak’s six-party ruling coalition, said it was ready to suggest that Samak step down.
    ‘‘The coalition partners have the impression that the situation is deteriorating and we are thinking of telling the prime minister to decide on the future of the government,’’ said Somsak Prisana-anantakul, deputy leader of Chart Thai.
    The People’s Alliance for Democracy, the protest organizer, accuses Samak’s government of serving as a proxy for ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a 2006 bloodless coup and banned from public office until 2012. Thaksin, who fled to self-imposed exile in Britain, faces an array of corruption charges.
    Samak led Thaksin’s political allies to a December 2007 election victory, and their assumption of power triggered fears that Thaksin would make a political comeback on the strength of his continued popularity with Thailand’s rural majority.
    Anti-government protests started in May but gained momentum Tuesday when protesters occupied the Government House compound. The unrest escalated Friday when protesters clashed with police.

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