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Thai PM dodges protesters for first key speech

 Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva delivers government policy speech Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, at Foreign Ministry in Bangkok, Thailand.   Thailand'...
 Police battle with anti-government protestors outside the Foreign Ministry Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand.  Thailand's  government was ...
 An anti-government demonstrator stares in from outside a locked gate at the Foreign Ministry Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand's...
 Anti-government demonstrators vent their angry outside Parliament  Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand.  Thailand's  government was forced t...
 Police battle with anti-government protestors outside the Foreign Ministry Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand.  Thailand's  government was ...
 An unidentified Thai Member of Parliament reaches through the fence  at Parliament to a supporter Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand.  Thai...
 Anti-government demonstrators surround and block the gates to Parliament Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand's government was forc...
 Thai protesters stage a blockade outside as riot police officers guard inside parliament during a protest to prevent government to declare its policy...
 A Thai protesters flashes a victory sign as he climbs the gate parliament during a protest to prevent government to declare its policy Tuesday, Dec. ...

Thailand Political Unrest

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva delivers government policy speech Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, at Foreign Ministry in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand'...

Thailand Political Unrest

Police battle with anti-government protestors outside the Foreign Ministry Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand's government was ...

Thailand Political Unrest

An anti-government demonstrator stares in from outside a locked gate at the Foreign Ministry Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand's...

Thailand Political Unrest

Anti-government demonstrators vent their angry outside Parliament Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand's government was forced t...

Thailand Political Unrest

Police battle with anti-government protestors outside the Foreign Ministry Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand's government was ...

Thailand Political Unrest

An unidentified Thai Member of Parliament reaches through the fence at Parliament to a supporter Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai...

APTOPIX Thailand Political Unrest

Anti-government demonstrators surround and block the gates to Parliament Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand's government was forc...

APTOPIX Thailand Political Unrest

Thai protesters stage a blockade outside as riot police officers guard inside parliament during a protest to prevent government to declare its policy...

APTOPIX Thailand Political Unrest

A Thai protesters flashes a victory sign as he climbs the gate parliament during a protest to prevent government to declare its policy Tuesday, Dec. ...

Thailand's new prime minister evaded thousands of protesters blocking Parliament on Tuesday and delivered his first key policy speech in the Foreign Ministry instead, promising to heal the turmoil that has ripped at the country and its tourism-based economy.
"The government has come into office at a time of conflict. This conflict has become the weakness of the country," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Thailand's third prime minister in four months, told lawmakers that included only his coalition members. Opposition members boycotted the session, but enough lawmakers showed up for a quorum.
Abhisit was forced to move and delay the speech by a day because of the anti-government protesters outside Parliament _ the same street-swamping demonstration tactics that his own supporters had used just before he came to power two weeks ago.
For months, Thailand has been rocked by rival groups of demonstrators who either support or protest ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, once one of the country's richest men, who now lives in self-imposed exile after being forced from office in a 2006 coup.
The turmoil, along with the global financial crisis, has severely hurt tourism _ most dramatically in a recent eight-day seizure of Bangkok's two main airports _ and threatens to push the country into recession.
Abhisit was formally named prime minister Dec. 17 in what many hoped would bring peace.
But on Monday, thousands of Thaksin loyalists. who call themselves the Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship, vowed to surround the Parliament building until new general elections are called.
The street protest echoed the last round of protests that helped bring Abhisit to power, when demonstrators opposed to Thaksin took over the prime minister's residence and seized Bangkok's two main airports for eight days.
In his speech Tuesday, Abhisit promised to "keep negotiating and mediating" to end the crisis.
Soon after he slipped into the Foreign Ministry to make his speech, the anti-government protesters abandoned their siege of that building. They said they might back off from their siege of Parliament as well, as early as Wednesday, a government holiday.
"It's not important how long we will gather. The important thing is that we have had the chance to express our view of the current government," protest leader Chakrapob Penkhair told The Associated Press.
The Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship _ also known as the "red shirts" because of their clothes_ is an eclectic mix of Thaksin loyalists, farmers and laborers from the cities including the capital, Bangkok.
They have demanded the new government dissolve the legislature and call general elections, which they believe the pro-Thaksin camp would win easily because of its strong rural base.
Abhisit's party, which had been in opposition since 2001, heads a coalition that some analysts doubt is strong enough to last until the next general election in 2011.
Analysts also say continuing upheavals will further batter Thailand's virtually moribund tourist industry and other economic sectors.
"There's no confidence among tourists who want to visit Thailand," said Prakit Chinamourphong, president of the Thai Hotel Association. "I just want to see a peaceful country without demonstrations so that the tourists will come back to Thailand again."


Updated : 2021-03-03 07:37 GMT+08:00