Hundreds of anti-government protesters amassed outside a hotel hosting a major Asian summit as they continued their demand Friday for Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to step down.
Some of the protesters and police engaged in shoving and shouting matches outside the Royal Cliff Beach Hotel in the beach resort city of Pattaya. But the demonstrations have been without incident otherwise. The hotel is the site of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit. The demonstrators have said they will not try to disrupt the meetings inside. The protesters had given Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva until Thursday afternoon to give in to their demands to step down. He ignored them. Thailand is in the midst of a political crisis, with “red shirt” protesters rallying daily. The protesters, named for their clothing, say Abhisit was not democratically elected. They want him to schedule elections. The protesters are loyal to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup. He fled Bangkok last year while facing trial on corruption charges.
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The demonstrators ebb and flow in numbers. Attendance reached almost 100,000 on Wednesday but fell Thursday morning, said Metropolitan Police spokesman Maj. Gen. Suporn Pansuea. Lawmakers named the 44-year-old, Oxford University-educated Abhisit prime minister in December. Before then, a party loyal to Thaksin was in power — and Thailand was contending with another group of protesters. Those demonstrators — the “yellow shirts” — wanted Thaksin to return to Thailand to face the corruption charges. And they wanted the Thaksin-aligned People Power Party, which came to power in a general election, to step down. Watch more about the “red shirt” rally » Months of protests followed. Demonstrators occupied the government headquarters and blockaded Bangkok’s major international airport, stranding tourists who provide much of the country’s revenue.
The demonstrations ended in early December when a court ruled that the People Power Party was guilty of electoral fraud and threw Thaksin’s brother-in-law out of the prime minister’s seat. The red-shirt protesters said this week that they would not take over airports.