"I will never resign" says besieged Thai PM

By Noppawan Bunluesilp

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravejsaid on Saturday he would not quit in the face of growingprotests aimed at toppling his seven-month-old government.

Speaking at an official event, Samak said he had requestedan audience with Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadejlater on Saturday to brief him on the political situation.

Samak said he had tried to reach a compromise with thethousands of protesters who have occupied the prime minister'sofficial compound since Tuesday and vowed to stay until hequits.

"I will never resign in response to these threats," Samaksaid to cheers and clapping from the crowd attending a ceremonyat a sports stadium to honour the king and queen's birthdays.

Samak said his six-party coalition government had beenlegally elected in December and he could not be removed byunconstitutional means.

"I came to this job under a legal mandate. I will only goif the law does not allow me to stay and not simply becausesomeone issues threats and puts pressure on me," he said.

Samak said he would fly to the coastal town of Hua Hin tomeet King Bhumibol at his palace there at 5 p.m. (11 a.m.British time).

Samak flew there late on Friday but it was not clear if hehad met the constitutional monarch, who is considered abovepolitics in Thailand but has intervened in past crises.

Behind their makeshift barricades, thousands of protestersled by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) milled aroundthe Government House compound, listening to fiery speeches andsinging patriotic songs.

Clashes erupted briefly on Friday evening when a2,000-strong crowd attacked Bangkok's police headquarters.Around 30 were injured as police repelled them with rubberbullets and teargas.

Samak met military officials on Friday amid speculationthat he may impose a state of emergency, but army chief AnupongPaochinda told reporters he had rejected the idea.

The Bangkok Post reported that Anupong spoke privately toSamak after the meeting and "suggested the prime ministerconsider stepping down or dissolving the House ofRepresentatives as possible options".


Newspapers condemned Friday's violence and chaos, whichstretched to protesters blocking three airports, including oneon the tourist island of Phuket, and striking workers haltingsome rail services.

"The only acceptable form of damage limitation is a speedyreturn to conduct befitting a civilised society and the rule oflaw. To behave otherwise is to invite anarchy and chaos," theBangkok Post said in an editorial.

One of the airports, in the southern town of Hat Yai, wasfunctioning again on Saturday.

The protests are being led by the PAD, a motley group ofbusinessmen, academics and activists who accuse Samak of beingan illegitimate proxy of ousted Prime Minister ThaksinShinawatra, now in exile in London. Samak denies theaccusation.

The assault on police headquarters came hours afterscuffles between PAD supporters and riot officers delivering acourt eviction order to the gates of the protest zone. Thecourt later said it had retracted the order pending a PADappeal.

The PAD proclaims itself to be a defender of the kingagainst a supposed Thaksin plan to turn Thailand into arepublic -- a charge denied by both Thaksin and the government.

Thai shares have fallen 23 percent since the PAD's streetcampaign began in May amid fears of policy paralysis at a timeof stuttering economic growth and high inflation.

(Additional reporting by Vithoon Amorn; Writing by DarrenSchuettler; Editing by Alan Raybould)