Thai court grants injunction against protesters

Tue Mar 31, 2009 10:54am EDT

(Updates with court ruling)

BANGKOK, March 31 (Reuters) - A court ordered protesters on Tuesday to stop blocking entrances to Thailand's seat of government where a siege to oust Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has dragged on for six days.

"The court issued the injunction after the Prime Minister's Office filed a lawsuit against the protesters," the Nation newspaper said on its website.

Leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), an extra-parliamentary group linked to ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said they would appeal the ruling by Bangkok's Civil Court.

"Tonight you can stay. Don't worry, we will send a lawyer to the court tomorrow to appeal," a UDD leader told supporters camped outside the compound.

The government had earlier called off its weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in an attempt to prevent violence between police and protesters.

"The injunction would grant a legal justification for us to enforce entry," Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban told reporters before the ruling.

Suthep told Reuters on Monday that the UDD wanted to provoke a violent incident to force negotiations with Thaksin, who was found guilty on conflict of interest charges and now lives in exile, but he said the government would not fall into the trap. [ID:nBKK441024]

Thaksin, in an address to protesters over a video link on Monday night, vowed to return to Thailand immediately to lead the protest to oust the government if force was used against them.

The former telecoms billionaire, who is believed to be living mainly in Dubai, has urged his supporters to stage rallies across the country to "bring back democracy". Small protests were reported in central and northern parts of Thailand on Monday.

Abhisit, who flew to London on Tuesday to attend the Group of 20 summit, and his ministers have avoided their offices at Government House since the protest began last Thursday.

Economists are worried that the government is being distracted by the latest unrest in Thailand's long-running political crisis at a time when it should be concentrating on the economy, which is heading for a recession this year.

Suthep said the government was managing to roll out planned economic stimulus measures, but the concern was reflected on the stock market.

The benchmark SET index .SETI fell 2.54 percent on Monday, although the troubles in the U.S. automobile industry were also a big factor, analysts said. The market was flat on Tuesday, lagging a tentative recovery elsewhere in Asia .MSCIAPJ.

More than two years after Thaksin was removed in a bloodless 2006 coup, the political impasse between Bangkok's royalist and business elite, who accused Thaksin and his allies of corruption and abuse of power, and rural voters who loved his populist policies, shows no sign of abating. (Reporting by Chalathip Thirasoonthrakul and Kittipong Soonprasert; Writing by Darren Schuettler; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)