Thai prime ministers pledge not to bow to anti-government protesters

Thailand's prime minister said Tuesday he would never bow to anti-government protesters and abandon the rural poor who voted him into power, as activists pledged to boost pressure on him to resign before elections next month.

Protesters trying to oust Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra say they will rally every night and extend their demonstrations to symbolic venues, including the Thai stock exchange and the Singapore Embassy.

A large rally was planned for next Tuesday outside of Government House to coincide with the leader's weekly Cabinet meeting.

"The protests are a test to see who can tolerate it longer. I am confident we will win," said Chamlong Srimuang, a protest leader who was a longtime adviser to Thaksin and is now one of his most powerful opponents.

"I am confident Thaksin will resign before April 2", the date set by Thaksin for snap elections.

More than 10,000 people gathered Monday night at Bangkok's Sanam Luang park. A night earlier a crowd that police estimated at 100,000 filled the streets around Government House and stayed until well past midnight, following a boisterous rally where speakers, singers and performers all lambasted Thaksin, accusing him of corruption and abuse of power.

Thaksin says he will not be cowed by the growing protests.

"I will never, ever bow to mob rule," Thaksin told reporters Tuesday, reiterating what has become a daily statement.

"A huge majority of people want me to carry on as prime minister. If I resign it would mean I am undermining the democratic system. Resigning would mean abandoning the poor people who are waiting for me to help them," he said.

Thaksin was overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term last year when his Thai Rak Thai party won 377 of the 500 seats in the House of Representatives. His main defense against critics is that he enjoys a mandate endorsed by 19 million voters, primarily from rural areas.

Thaksin's critics, who accuse the leader of corruption and abuse of power, are primarily from Thailand's urban middle class.

The anti-Thaksin campaign swelled last month after the prime minister's family sold its controlling stake in telecom giant Shin Corp. to a Singapore state-owned investment company, netting 73.3 billion baht (US$1.9 billion; euro1.55 billion), reports the AP.