Mass protests threaten to unseat govt

The political standoff between the Government and the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) reached crisis point on Friday morning as the tens of thousands of PAD protesters laid siege to Government House in Bangkok, in a final attempt to force the cabinet to resign. Violence erupted when a 5000-strong anti riot squad tried to evict them from the nearby Makkasan Bridge, promptly massed threats from unions and groups across the country.

In scenes reminiscent of the massed protests that eventually prompted a coup to overthrow former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the 8-month old government were faced with the dilemma of letting the anarchy continue and spiral out of control or use force to disperse them. Thailand has previously had two traumatic experiences of the police getting violent with protestors and on both occasions the government were eventually compelled to step down.

The current protest has been building for several months but took an ugly turn on Tuesday when the PAD usurped their peaceful demonstrations with more militant attacks and occupation of several government buildings and a TV station which they accuse of being government bias. Despite the PAD losing some credibility in the move, the aggressive response from Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has prompted many civil groups to threaten civil disobedience in support of the PAD. The result is the closure of several airports and threats of strikes.

The PAD's main goal of their 'final push' is to force the current government, lead by the PPP, to step down, despite their being democratically elected after the junta returned civilian rule in January of this year. However they have come under increasing criticism for being self-serving, incompetent, corrupt and acting as a proxy for Thaksin, who is now in London, a fugitive from a pending corruption case.

Although the protest is some distance from tourist sites in Bangkok and unlikely to effect their safety, the situation could rapidly spiral out of control and force the military to become involved. Of more concern to tourists is the disruption to transport services resulting in the protests expanding out of Bangkok, particularly to highways and airports.

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