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Thai court approves arrest warrants for protest leaders
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Thailand's Criminal Court on Wednesday issued arrest warrants to nine leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) for instigating unrest in the capital by leading protesters against government institutions.

Later in the evening, the Civil Court also issued an injunction, ordering the protesters to immediately leave the Government House compound, which they have occupied since Tuesday afternoon and used as a rally venue to call for the step-down of the government led by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.

The injunction also ordered the protesters to stop blocking roads accessing Government House.

The court cited that the protests affected the works of government officials and the Cabinet, which was forced to hold its weekly meeting on Tuesday at a different venue.

The Criminal Court reportedly issued the arrest warrants early Wednesday afternoon.

The accused included the PAD's five core leaders -- media mogulSondhi Limthongkul, retired Major General Chamlong Srimuang, Piphop Thongchai, Somsak Kosaisuk, Somkiat Pongpaiboon, and PAD coordinator Suriyasai Katasila, as well as three other activist leaders -- Chat Sinsuwong, Amorn Amornrattananond and Terdphoom Jaidee.

The nine were charged with severe offences including rebellion, rebellious attempt, storing weapons, inciting unrest and disorder in society and refusing to obey police orders, by organizing thousands of its supporters to besiege and trespass state institutions including the Government House, several ministries' office compound and the state-run NBT TV station since early Tuesday.

Related penalty will be a maximum five-year jail-term.

The leaders earlier said they were not afraid of arrests and named a list of successors to carry on the protests.

The successors include Sawit Kaewwan, a union leader for state enterprises, Sirichai Maingam, leader of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand Union, and Samran Rodphet, former member of the National Legislative Assembly.

By press time several thousands PAD-led protesters continued their occupation at the government seat, where they camped overnight. It's estimated that more than 2,000 police forces, including riot police, were deployed around and in the Government House.

After Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej gave ultimatum Tuesday afternoon to the protesters for them to retreat and demanded the police forces to bring back law and order in the capital, police had tried to negotiate the protesters out of the compound, but to no avail.

Police on Wednesday issued more than one warning to ask the PAD protesters to leave the compound immediately, but the PAD people, many of whom reportedly transported here from provinces out of Bangkok, remained unmoved. They were even in a party-like mood as they sang with umbrellas overhead when heavy rain befell in Bangkok Wednesday afternoon.

The PAD also used a few trucks to block different gates of the Government House compound, while many of its supporters crowded in front of the gates, in an effort to prevent the police from making arrests of the leaders.

(Xinhua News Agency August 28, 2008)

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