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Thai Protest Leaders Say They Will Surrender to Police


Leaders of Thailand's anti-government Red Shirt protesters said Saturday they will surrender to police next month.

The leaders said all 24 heads of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship will turn themselves over to police on May 15. They did not give an explanation for the timing.

In the meantime, the leaders say the rally in Bangkok's commercial center will continue.

The announcement comes hours after Thailand's prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, put the army in charge of restoring order in the capital, after police failed to capture anti-government protest leaders.

Mr. Abhisit said in a special broadcast on national television Friday that General Anupong Paochinda will take charge of the peacekeeping force, aimed at preventing violence by the so-called Red Shirts.

A police raid on a hotel in Bangkok Friday where three protest leaders were hiding failed.

One of the Red Shirt leaders, Arisman Pongruangrong, climbed down three floors using a rope, and supporters rushed him away before police closed in to arrest him.

The other two protest leaders also managed to flee the hotel, which was surrounded by security forces.

Most of the protesters support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in 2006. They say Mr. Abhisit was installed illegally, and they demand his resignation.

Sunai Pasuk, a representative of Human Rights Watch in Thailand, said the botched operation shows that Thai police are not capable of doing their job, forcing the government to rely on the army. He described the situation in Thailand as "dangerous."

Bangkok's capitol area was the scene of last Saturday's bloody clashes that left at least 24 people dead, including five soldiers. Dozens of people were wounded.

Thai authorities issued arrest warrants Wednesday for the men accused of firing on security forces during the clashes. Officials say the suspects had military training and were armed with semi-automatic guns and grenades.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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