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Thai Premier Thaksin Will Be 630 Kilometers Away During Protest

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will tomorrow be campaigning for re-election in the country's provinces as an expected tens of thousands of protesters surround his Bangkok office calling for him to quit.

Thaksin will be in Ubon Ratchathani province, about 630 kilometers (394 miles) northeast of Bangkok, after speaking tonight at a campaign rally there, government spokesman Surapong Suebwonglee said today. Back in Bangkok, the protesters will surround Government House which houses Thaksin's office and many of his ministers, who will be in a weekly cabinet meeting.

``The prime minister will be in Ubon and he will participate from there in tomorrow's cabinet meeting via video- conference,'' Surapong said in a telephone interview in Bangkok. ``Another couple of ministers will be there with him but most will attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Bangkok as usual.''

Tomorrow, as many as ``100,000 people'' will march to Government House from Sanam Luang park in downtown Bangkok, protest leader Sondhi Limthongkul said March 6. Anti-Thaksin activist groups have staged nightly protests to demand that he step down over issues including his family's controversial sale of a stake in Shin Corp. to a Singapore government fund.

Thaksin last month dissolved parliament and called a snap poll for April 2 which is being boycotted by opposition parties.

``Thousands of policemen will ensure security in and around Government House tomorrow,'' Surapong said. ``The police are ready to ensure the safety of the demonstrators as well as that of the government properties.''

The protest march is due to begin at 7 a.m. local time. The weekly cabinet meeting usually starts at around 8.30 a.m.

Television `Message'

Thai state television yesterday interrupted programming to show footage of the king intervening in a 1992 uprising, a move seen by many as a message to the premier and his rivals to hold talks to resolve their political standoff.

In the broadcast, King Bhumibol Adulyadej tells then- military ruler General Suchinda Kraprayoon and protest leader Chamlong Srimuang to end the political crisis peacefully through talks. Suchinda resigned after the original 1992 broadcast.

Analysts, including Chris Baker, author of `Thaksin: The Business Of Politics In Thailand,' see the broadcast as a way to force the government and protesters to negotiate a compromise and the peaceful end to the current standoff.

The broadcast is ``a very pointed act,'' said Chris Baker, which would be ``quite dangerous'' for Thaksin Shinawatra to ignore. He said it was ``very clear'' that the prime minister and the opposition were being told to end their standoff. ``I would expect something to happen quite soon.''

Critics of the Shin deal were angered by the tax-free $1.9 billion Thaksin's family netted from the sale to Temasek Holdings Pte., a $63 billion investment company owned by the Singapore government, and by the prospect of foreign ownership of Shin Corp., which controls Thailand's biggest mobile-phone company and the nation's only satellite operator.

Thaksin again today reiterated he had no plan to quit, Surapong said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Laurent Malespine in Bangkok at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bruce Grant in Hong Kong at

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