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Coalition allies sticking together

A highly-anticipated audience granted Samak by HM the King has ended but PM avoided the media as allies reaffirm him their full support

Coalition allies and the People Power Party stood firmly behind Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej on Saturday amid growing uncertainties surrounding his future.

Samak avoided the media after returning from Hua Hin where he was granted an audience with His Majesty the King at the Klai Kangwol Palace.  It was initially expected that he would join the allies who were meeting with the Peninsula Hotel after the highly-anticipated audience, but he didn't show up at the Bangkok Hotel.

At a press conference at the hotel late Saturday night, the allies reaffirmed their support for his government and dismissed speculation that Samak would resign or dissolve Parliament.

They said the coalition pins its hope on the joint parliamentary meeting on Sunday between the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The message was unlikely to calm down political tension. Fears of violence rose again on Saturday when the Nor Por Kor movement, the political group closely associated with the ruling PPP, held a gathering at Sanam Luang to oppose the People's Alliance for Democracy. The Nor Por Kor rally drew hundreds of people wearing shirts during the day but the crowds swelled to thousands in the evening.

"We can't let the PAD continue to cause massive damage to the country," said Nattawut Saikua, deputy government spokesman and key Nor Por Kor member. "Even if the PAD succeeded in forcing out this government, we will oppose the next government because we will consider it a PAD nominee, just as the PAD considers this government a Thaksin nominee."

The Peninsula Hotel press conference was attended by all key government leaders, all of whom insisting that the current crisis should be solved through democratic means, albeit through Parliament.

"This government coalition has been working together for seven months and in our discussion we reviewed our work and we thought we have done all right and should continue to work together," said Finance Minister Surapong Suebwonglee.

He and other coalition leaders were very tightlipped on what Samak was planning to do or why he did not join the meeting and press conference.

Samak was not seen by an army of media waiting at the Armed Forces airport on his return from Hua Hin. It was  initially believed that he would appear at the press conference at 11 pm at the Peninsula Hotel.

Samak's plane landed at the military airport but only pilots got off the aircraft. They refused to say where the prime minister was.

Samak had said he sought the audience with HM the King to report the rising political tensions concerning the ongoing protests. He was apparently trying to quash rumours that his audience with the King signalled an intention to step down.

"I will not back down and will not resign as demanded by the protesters led by People's Alliance for Democracy. I will continue my duties for the sake of the cuntry. I am appointed as a prime minster by the laws, so if I have to quit, I will quit according to the laws, not because of threats from protests."

He said without giving further details that if his government adopted soft approach in dealing with the protesters, it will be criticised of being weak. However if it used severe approach, it will be condemned.

The premier flied to Klai Kangwon Palace late Friday night, expecting to be granted an audience with HM the King. However, he reportedly failed to do so and returned to Bangkok on Saturday morning. He then returned to the Klai Kanwon Palace Saturday afternoon.




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