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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Thais Call for Prime Minister's Exit

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Public dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh mounted Tuesday as protesters renewed demands for him to resign for an economic crisis that has rocked Southeast Asia.


More than 1,000 people gathered outside the main government buildings as the Cabinet met inside to consider a crucial reshuffle made urgent by Sunday's resignation of Finance Minister Thanong Bidaya.


The protesters, ranging from laid-off workers to middle-class businessmen, carried placards of the revered monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and chanted "Chavalit, go away!'' Traffic was blocked, but some 240 riot police did not interfere.


"The prime minister is trying to get away with not changing anything. We think it's time for Thai people to help their country,'' protest leader Montree Sornpaisarn said through a bullhorn.


The crowd built on momentum from Monday's protest in the central business district which drew 2,000 people, the largest outburst of middle-class discontent since street protests toppled a military government in 1992.


A protest was also reported in at least one provincial town.


Concerns over government instability caused the Thai currency, the baht, to plummet to an all-time low of 38.70 to the dollar.


The Cabinet meeting broke up without a reshuffle being announced. The real decisions -- with Chavalit's future at stake -- were expected to be made in subsequent talks between the premier and Chatichai Choonhavan, leaders of the two largest members of the six-party coalition.


Deputy Prime Minister Korn Dabbaransi, a member of Chatichai's Chart Pattana Party, told reporters that Chavalit, head of the New Aspiration Party, was expected to name a new finance minister within 24 hours.


As Chatichai left his home Tuesday evening after meeting with his party's leaders, he told reporters that a new Cabinet lineup was still being negotiated and that the reshuffle will be completed "within the week.'' He said non-politician "outsiders'' might join the Cabinet.


The turmoil is hampering Thailand's compliance with conditions set by the International Monetary Fund for a $17.2 billion credit line -- the world's second-largest ever -- extended in August.