King's Intervention Halts Thailand Protests

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DEMONSTRATORS and troops left the streets yesterday, and the government freed thousands of prisoners under a compromise brokered by the widely respected Thai king that halted four days of bloody protests.

But pro-democracy activists voiced fears that Prime Minister Suchinda Kraprayoon, an unelected former Army chief who led a military coup last year, would not soon relinquish power despite the agreement.

In a televised meeting, Mr. Suchinda and opposition leader Chamlong Srimuang knelt before King Bhumibol Adjulyadej and and were told to reach a compromise through a constitutional amendment that would allow only elected lawmakers to hold the prime minister's post.

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The stock market, after plunging Tuesday when the unrest was at its height, soared yesterday on investor euphoria after the announced compromise, traders said. In a peaceful rally, about 100 people walked solemnly around Democracy Monument yesterday morning, placing flowers on it, and praying for the recent dead.

The monument was the focal point of the demonstrations in which at least 40 people were killed and more than 600 injured. Many suspect the death toll is much higher.

Intervention by the revered king effectively stopped public demonstrations. But many were not satisfied.

"Dreams Die: Suchinda to Remain PM," headlined the daily newspaper Phoojatkarn, echoing sentiments of many interviewed following the compromise.

"We're not satisfied with the outcome, the compromise. We want Suchinda and his wife to leave Thailand," said Somsak Teerapong, a businessman who took part in the demonstrations.

Political groups gathered this morning to plot strategies for a meeting Monday at which Parliament will consider the constitutional amendment behind which the king threw his support. What shape the amendment will take, how long passage will take, and how long Suchinda will retain his post remain unclear.

Before dispersing yesterday, some protesters at a mass Ramkhamhaeng University rally said they would go back to the streets if Suchinda is not duly removed.

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