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Rural Thais say Bangkok protests hit livelihoods


Rural Thais say Bangkok protests hit livelihoods

9:53 - 5/09/2008
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By Nopporn Wong-Anan

BAAN BANGSAI, Thailand (Reuters) - Rural Thais say themiddle class Bangkok protesters occupying Prime Minister SamakSundaravej's compound are destroying their livelihoods andshould end their three-month campaign to topple the government.

They say demand for their goods has been hurt by a state ofemergency that prompted some schools in Bangkok to close andhas made people spend less, while rail and port strikes hitsales at home and abroad.

Somporn Graisamran, a fish supplier to Bangkok markets,said she now made a third of what she was making two months agoafter a state of emergency declared on Tuesday.

"I want to see it over as soon as possible. I don't want tosee my business suffer further losses," Somporn said on Fridayin Baan Bangsai, a village 80 km (50 miles) north of Bangkok.

If she sold less fish, that meant fish farmers in BaanBangsai earned less and fewer labourers were hired to catchfish for the market, she said, adding her daily sales had gonedown to 500 kg (1,100 lb) from nearly 2 tonnes.

"I don't know what their definition of democracy is,"Somporn said, referring to the thousands of urban, mostlymiddle-class protesters who have occupied the grounds ofGovernment House for 11 days and resisted a court order forthem to get out.

The protests are led by the People's Alliance for Democracy(PAD), a coalition of royalists, academics and businessmen.

The PAD protesters, wearing the royal colour of yellow,want Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government to quit,accusing him and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra --now in exile in London after fleeing corruption charges -- ofwanting to turn the kingdom into a republic, a charge bothdeny.

"They don't love the king as they claim they do and want tofight for him," glass blower Prapha Janjaem said of theprotesters.

"If they did, they wouldn't do what they are doing now,"Prapha said. Exports of her glass souvenirs were stranded atBangkok's port after union workers went on strike in support ofthe protests.

"Many of these well-off protesters may think they canafford to join the rally, but they don't realise that thedemonstration is hurting everybody else in this country,"Prapha said.

ARREST THEM

Chaiyaporn Chamnarn, a one-legged ex-soldier in BaanBangsai, urged the government to end the stand-off atGovernment House.

"I only wish they would stop soon. I am very eager to seethem arrested, with the authorities taking decisive action todeal with them," said Chaiyaporn, whose glass business had alsoslowed.

"I don't care who leads the government, I just want agovernment that can move the country forward," he said.

The village's handicraft business got a big boost afterThaksin became prime minister in 2001 and launched a nationwideprogramme to create jobs for villagers -- one of the reasonswhy he and Samak, an ally, are so popular in the countryside.

"Our living conditions improved significantly during theThaksin government. We don't know if he was corrupt, but weknow that he made our lives better," glass blower Prapha said.

(Editing by Alan Raybould and Jerry Norton)

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