Anti-government protesters cheer at a rally at the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday night, Aug. 30, 2008. Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej faced mounting pressure to resign Saturday as anti-government protesters occupied his headquarters for a fifth day and disrupted rail and air service in some of the country's most popular tourist destinations (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit).
BANGKOK, Thailand — Thailand's prime minister acknowledged that his administration cannot control spiraling anti-government protests and urged Parliament to find a political solution during an emergency session Sunday.
Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej once again refused to resign as thousands of protesters camped out at his official compound for a sixth day. "I will not bow. I will not step down and I will not resign — despite the pressure mounting on my government," said Samak, speaking in his weekly television program Sunday, hours before the joint session of Parliament.
Samak said his government and the courts were unable to restore calm after they tried and failed to evict the protesters. The crowd size has ranged from 2,000 to about 30,000, and protesters have turned the government's headquarters into a disheveled campground with tents, portable toilets and piles of garbage. "Since the government cannot resolve the problem — even the courts cannot resolve the problem — the joint session of Parliament is the best choice for finding a solution," Samak said.
The prime minister has received the backing of his six-party ruling coalition, which said it would not dissolve parliament to call new elections. More than 1,000 government supporters staged a counter-rally Sunday in front of Parliament, about a half-mile from Government House. The unrest peaked Friday when police fired tear gas to stop thousands of protesters from attacking the city's police headquarters, which is near the prime minister's compound.
In other parts of the country, rail workers joined the protest by halting service on dozens of trains. Protesters forced airports to shut at some of the country's most popular beach destinations.
Phuket airport remained closed Sunday, with protesters blocking the runway for a third day. Authorities said they had no idea when flights would resume. Krabi airport reopened after a two-day closure. Protesters say that Western-style democracy has allowed corruption to flourish and they want a new government with a parliament in which most of the lawmakers are appointed and only 30% elected.
The protest organizers, the People's Alliance for Democracy, accuse Samak's government of corruption and of serving as a proxy for ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a 2006 coup. Thaksin was banned from public office until 2012 and recently fled to self-imposed exile in Britain to escape an array of corruption charges.
Samak led Thaksin's political allies to a December 2007 election victory, and their assumption of power triggered fears that Thaksin would make a political comeback on the strength of his continued popularity with Thailand's rural majority.
Samak had requested a Saturday meeting with Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej at his seaside palace in Hua Hin, south of the capital, Bangkok. There was no immediate confirmation from either Samak or the palace on whether the meeting took place. Bhumibol is a constitutional monarch with no formal political role, but he has repeatedly brought calm in times of turbulence during his 60 years on the throne.
An anti-government protester cheers in front a billboard denouncing ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife Potjaman Shinawatra in the Royal Plaza in Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday, Aug. 30, 2008. Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej faced mounting pressure to resign Saturday as anti-government protesters occupied his headquarters for a fifth day and disrupted rail and air service in some of the country's most popular tourist destinations (AP Photo/Vincent Yu).