Thailand Police Surround Protesters

BANGKOK -- Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has ordered thousands of riot police to move an anti-government crowd occupying his office compound by Wednesday, his spokesman said.

"The prime minister said it has to end today," Samak's chief spokesman Wichianchot Sukchotrat told reporters. "Thousands of police will be deployed to move the protesters out of the Government House."

Wichianchot said police would try to persuade the thousands of demonstrators to leave the lawn of Government House, normally the nerve center of the Thai administration, but if violence flared it would be met with "decisive actions".

Earlier Wednesday, Interior Minister Kowit Wattana, a former national police chief, suggested that the authorities would continue to exercise restraint in the wake of the demonstrators' siege and their occupation on Tuesday of several ministries and a state television station.

"I am begging to my fellow citizens to leave the Government House and hold a rally somewhere else where police will have no objection to it," he told a news conference. "I don't want to call this an ultimatum, more an appeal."

A Thai court issued arrest warrants on Wednesday for nine leaders of an anti-government movement laying siege to the prime minister's office in an attempt to force his cabinet from power.

The warrants accuse the nine leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy of inciting unrest and trying to overthrow the government, a crime that carries up to 15 years in prison.

It was unclear how police would arrest the nine, surrounded by thousands of flag-waving supporters at Samak's headquarters.