Protestors pressure military rulers to step down

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From correspondents in Bangkok

June 18, 2007 04:00am

PROTESTERS linked
to Thailand’s ousted prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, overnight
delivered a letter to the country’s military rulers demanding that the
junta resign and immediately hold elections.

Members
of the Democracy Alliance against Dictatorship submitted the letter to
Major General Veeran Chantasatkosol, secretary-general of the Thai
army, amid tight security in front of army headquarters in Bangkok.

“We come here today to ask for the junta to resign, bring back the
1997 constitution and hold elections as soon as possible,” said Veera
Musikapong, one of the leaders of nightly rallies against coup leaders.

Later, at least 6500 of their supporters gathered in a plaza in
central Bangkok, waving banners and shouting slogans protesting against
junta rule, police and organisers said.

The anti-coup group, set up by former senior members of Mr Thaksin’s
Thai Rak Thai party, have vowed to hold demonstrations every day until
June 24 – the anniversary of the end of absolute monarchy in Thailand
and the transition to a constitutional monarchy in 1932.

Weng Totulakarn, a democracy activist, called on junta head General
Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who led the coup that ousted Thaksin in
September, to join the final rally next Sunday and debate with protest
organisers.

“If he loves the country, he should join the debate,” Mr Weng said,
adding that a referendum should be held on the legitimacy of the coup.

Junta spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the country was on the path
back to democracy, and accused the protesters of trying to stop
elections with their calls for the seven-member junta to step down.

“We cannot follow the request (to resign) or the debate,” he said.

Thousands of protesters have been turning out to the nightly
demonstrations in central Bangkok, with the crowds swelling after a
tribunal dissolved Mr Thaksin’s party at the end of May, angering his
supporters.

On Friday, the ousted leader addressed protesters in a recorded
speech from London, urging the junta to push ahead with elections
promised for December and calling for reconciliation after months of
political turmoil.

The army-installed prime minister, Surayud Chulanont, has said he
will hold talks with “any parties” to bring an end to the upheaval, but
protest leaders have vowed to continue.

Democracy advocates, anti-poverty campaigners, and even Buddhist
monks have staged protests against the junta in recent months, and the
demonstrations have grown as authorities delivered a series of sharp
legal blows against Mr Thaksin.

Overnight, anti-graft authorities froze $US1.5 billion ($1.8 billion) dollars in assets belonging to Mr Thaksin and his family.

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