Thai PM ropes in Army Chief to quash Red Shirts' challenge

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Bangkok, Apr 17 (ANI): Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said that Army Chief General Anupong Paojinda would replace Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban as head of the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations (CRES).

The decision follows the failed attempt to arrest the "Red Shirt" leaders at a city hotel on Friday.

Vejjajiva said that General Paojinda will take charge of the operations to suppress and prevent acts of terrorism, and emphasized that the "unsuccessful efforts taken so far" against the protesters had prompted the government to "review structural issues". he announcement came as tens of thousands of anti-government protesters remained camped out in central Bangkok.

Some observers, however, believe the change of guard at the security centre could widen rifts between the government and the army, The Bangkok Post reports.

An army source said that the Thai Government's move is intended to "force" General Paojinda to take tough action against the Red Shirts.

The Red-Shirt protesters are demanding that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva should dissolve the parliament and call fresh elections.

They support fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra and accuse the government of elitism and being undemocratic, as it came to power after a parliamentary vote that followed a court verdict ousting Thaksin's allies.

Last weekend, the government had tried unsuccessfully to clear protesters from a part of the city. The failed crackdown left 23 people dead and more than 800 injured.

Meanwhile, leaders of "Red Shirt" said that they would surrender to police next month, but refused to end their rally in Bangkok.

"On May 15, 24 of us will surrender. All of the leaders. For now the 24 of us will keep rallying to show sincerely that we won't run away," said Nattawut Saikuar, one of the top Red Shirts. (ANI)

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