September 9, 2008 / 12:43 PM / 11 years ago

Thailand's protesters soaked but undeterred

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Soaked by a thunderstorm, thousands of Thai protesters danced in joy when a court ordered Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to quit on Tuesday, but vowed to continue a siege of his compound since he plans to return.

“Get out, get out,” they chanted when the verdict was announced on scores of television sets strung up in the compound of Government House, as rivers of water flowed underfoot.

The announcement came about half-an-hour after the thunderstorm, which felled trees elsewhere in Bangkok, ripped though the compound, sending water cascading down the sides of tents and drenching even those who took cover.

“The court did the right thing,” said 64-year-old housewife Sikarin Inksakunsombun, panting after dancing a jig in jubilation. “If Samak is elected again (by his supporters), they can go to hell. There is such a thing as ethics.”

Shortly after the verdict, Samak’s ruling People Power Party (PPP) said it wanted parliament to meet on Friday to re-elect the 73-year-old as prime minister.

The move did not come as a surprise to the protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), who have barricaded themselves in the premier’s compound for two weeks and refused to move until the premier was forced out.

“We will stay here until this government is thrown out,” announced PAD leader Prapan Kunmee from the impromptu stage rigged up on the lawn, to raucous cheers and frenzied clapping with plastic paddles.

Aphichaya Athicombandhitkul, an architecture student from Chulangkorn University, said: “We will stay here to protect the people against anything bad. We will stay until the bad people are gone.”

The PAD, a motley collection of retired army officers, royalists and academics, draws its strength from the Bangkok middle class while Samak and his PPP party are popular among the poor and in the countryside.

Whatever happens to Samak, analysts say the struggle between the two groups could take years, or even decades, to resolve.

Editing by Darren Schuettler and Jerry Norton

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