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Thai PM gives ultimatum to protesters
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Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej gave ultimatum to anti-government protesters led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) who intruded many key establishments in the capital including the Government House, warning them to retreat or face counter-actions by police.

Samak reiterated this is a last chance as the government has acted with utmost restraint dealing with the PAD protests, which has continued in Bangkok for one month and reached a climax on Tuesday as thousands of protesters seized a state-run TV station, blocked main roads linking Bangkok to upcountry, and broke into various government institutions including Government House compound, 1several ministries' offices and the Bangkok Metropolitan Police Bureau, in a showdown siege to force the step- down of the Samak government.

"It is not that we don't have any means or policy grounds to stop them (PAD protesters), but we just kept giving second-chances to them. Now our tolerance has come to the bottom line."

Samak, who made the statement at the Armed forces Supreme Command headquarters in Bangkok after chairing a Cabinet weekly meeting as Prime Minister and Defence Minister there, assigned Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Kowit Watana to be responsible to bring back law and order in the capital.

He urged on the protesters to put national solidarity first and retreat from the occupied and intruded establishments as soon as possible, or "they would be brought to justice."

He also lashed at the PAD for throwing "groundless" accusations against his administration. "I plead that every Thai citizen, the media ponder before make a fair judgment on the government's doings."

He also pointed out that the current government he led was a lawfully elected one, while the PAD was not such produced, and that the group had broken their promise by giving up a peaceful nature of their protests, but seized important state institutions by force, which was in breach of the constitution and should be punished by law.

Later he also told some Bangkok-based foreign media that his seven-month-old government has not committed anything wrong, but the PAD has lured tens of thousands of people from upcountry provinces to join the protests, which turned violent as they seized government agencies and TV stations carrying weapons, in order to "get rid the government, get rid of me ... without reason. "

After Samak made the statement, Interior Minister Kowit, former national police chief, ordered the protesters now stationed in the Government House compound to disperse before 6:00 p.m. (1100GMT), otherwise "will be asked to leave", according to deputy police spokesman Pol Maj Gen Surapol Tuanthong.

Samak's last-chance ultimatum was more restrained than what some had expected, that he would declare a state of emergency in Bangkok.

Immediately after Samak made the statement, one of the PAD five core leaders Sondhi Limthongkul showed up on the steps of Thai Khu Fah Building at Government House to declare a victory of their movement, and vowed to continue the protests until Samak resigned.

Government Spokesman Wichianchot Sukchotrat said police are expected to clear the protesters out of the Government House within 24 hours.

Government House will open for business no later than Wednesday and everything will return to normal in 24 hours, said Wichianchot.

He affirmed that the PM deemed it not necessary to declare a state of emergency by now, and that police could handle the problem.

Samak also told media in late afternoon that he has ordered the arrest of PAD's five core leaders.

Deputy police spokesman Surapol Thuanthong said police would ask for approval of arrest warrants for the PAD core leaders on Wednesday. He added that police have gathered evidence against them since May 25, when the PAD started their street rallies in central Bangkok to demand the step-down of the Samak government.

By press time, there were still thousands of protesters gathering around and in the Government House compound.

(Xinhua News Agency August 27, 2008)

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