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Village heads take ministry back for govt

PDRC mob leaves before thousands of kamnan arrive

Some 40,000 community leaders from around the country have ousted anti-government protesters who had laid siege to the Interior Ministry for more than five months in an attempt to pressure the caretaker government to step down.

The anti-government protesters, led by the State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC), an ally of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), withdrew from the ministry on Saturday night after the arrival of thousands of kamnan and village heads to Bangkok.

They decided to leave the ministry to avoid clashes ahead of Coronation Day today.

Caretaker Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan and other senior Interior Ministry officials led the community leaders to accomplish the mission swiftly and without violence, with only a few anti-government protesters present at the time.

The leaders took to a stage to talk to the crowd for three hours before reading a statement against the PDRC demand that kamnan and village heads be scrapped and for all provinces to have elected governors. The demands are part of the PDRC's reform plan.

The leaders said the PDRC's demand was unacceptable and that laying siege to the ministry blocked ministry officials from carrying out their work and caused a public inconvenience for far too long.

Charupong said the government had reached an agreement with anti-government protesters to leave the ministry.

"Thanks to the kamnan and village heads for their unity to make this mission today successful," he said.

The leaders sang the royal anthem before leaving the ministry compound.

PDRC chief Suthep Thaugsuban took to the Lumpini Park stage to say Interior Ministry protesters had withdrawn to the park, the organisation's long-time base.

PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan said the decision to leave the ministry came after national police chief General Adul Saengsingakew and Maj-General Apirat Kongsompong, commander of the First Division, King's Guard, had asked PDRC and SERC leaders to do so to avoid clashes before Coronation Day.

Adul said PDRC leader Somsak Kosaisuk agreed to withdraw protesters unconditionally and a committee would be appointed tomorrow to check for any damage to the ministry.

Pheu Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit said it was a good sign that the ousting of protesters was carried out peacefully and he urged protesters at other ministries, including the government complex at Chaeng Wattana Road, to follow suit.

More than 300 community leaders, including defence volunteers from Ang Thong's seven districts, headed for Bangkok early yesterday morning to join the other leaders.

They said that although anti-government protesters had left the Interior Ministry, they had received an order to stay put. Meanwhile, Suthep has led other PDRC leaders to preside over a ceremony to enshrine a Buddha statue at Lumpini Park so PDRC supporters can worship. The move is designed to boost moral ahead of a mega rally on May 14 - the day Suthep has vowed will be the beginning of the end for the caretaker government.


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