A leader of anti-government protesters in Thailand today agreed that demonstrators will leave the venue of a weekend summit of Asian leaders, easing concerns that the meeting might have to be canceled.
Some 2,000 protesters had gathered outside the hotel complex to call for the resignation of the country’s prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva .
Protest leader Arisman Pongreungrong says they have agreed to leave the site for now and unblock roads leading to the venue but will regroup in Pattaya, a few miles away.
He says the protesters will discuss whether to return tomorrow if their conditions are not met.
Earlier, and with chants of “Abhisit get out”, several hundred red-shirted protesters had pushed past riot police lines outside the convention centre, located at the top of a hill in the beachside town 90 miles south-east of Bangkok.
There was no reported violence, but hundreds of soldiers with riot gear were seen marching toward the site.
The weekend summit brings together leaders from 16 countries including the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
The main focus of the summit will be tackling the global financial crisis, although North Korea’s recent rocket launch was also likely to come up.
The protesters are supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed by a 2006 coup. Most come from the rural poor majority that benefited from Thaksin’s populist policies.
Abhisit was appointed by Parliament in December after a court dissolved a government led by Thaksin’s allies. The protesters say Abhisit took office illegitimately and should step down so elections can be held.
The government has said it will allow peaceful protests and police showed no sign of breaking up the earlier gathering, as protesters reclined under trees at a golf course outside the convention hall and trampled across its tropical gardens.
Abhisit arrived at the Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Centre by helicopter. Other leaders were scheduled to arrive later today or tomorrow.
Yesterday the demonstrators, whose numbers have swelled to 100,000 in recent days, brought areas of capital Bangkok to a standstill.
Protesters say Thaksin was wrongfully ousted in a September 2006 military coup. His allies, however, quickly regained power, setting off months of protests last year by his opponents that culminated in the week-long occupation of Bangkok’s airports.