Thai Protesters to Keep Up Their Vigil

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Anti-government protesters in Thailand will keep up their demonstrations until Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej steps down, one of the group's leaders said Sunday.

Chamlong Srimuang, a former Bangkok governor who helped lead similar protests in 2006, said the 500 protesters at a makeshift encampment near the United Nations building in Bangkok would ignore government demands for them to disperse.

"We will stay on the site until Samak is out of office," Chamlong said. "We have right by law to stage a rally and protest against the government here."

Protest leader Somsak Kosaisuk told the crowd that Samak had to go because he was little more than a puppet for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

"Thaksin is behind every move Samak makes so we have to fire Samak and destroy the remnants of the Thaksin regime," Somsak said.

Samak, who on Saturday threatened to use riot police to forcibly remove the protesters, took a more conciliatory tone Sunday.

He said authorities would move the protesters from their encampment, but insisted police would not use force. He did not say when the move would take place.

"The protesters have to be removed from where they are now and relocated to other areas where they are not causing trouble to others," Samak said in his weekly program on the government-run television station NBT.

On Saturday, about 1,000 riot police assembled at the demonstrations. But two deadlines passed for the crowd of nearly 3,000 to disperse without incident.

Demonstrators have been holding sometimes-violent protests over the past week. They accuse Samak's government of working on behalf of Thaksin.