BANGKOK, Thailand Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej vowed Saturday not to resign despite growing pressure for him to step down as anti-government protesters occupied his headquarters for a fifth day and disrupted rail and air service in some of the country's most popular tourist destinations.
Samak's refusal to bow to protesters came ahead of an evening meeting with King Bhumibol Adulyadej at his seaside palace in Hua Hin, south of Bangkok. Bhumibol is a constitutional monarch with no formal political role but has repeatedly brought calm in times of turbulence during his six decades on the throne.
"I, the prime minister, have come to office in the appropriate way and I won't resign," Samak said during a televised ceremony for the royal family. In an apparent effort to end speculation that the king would seek his resignation, Samak said he had requested the meeting to brief the monarch on the political situation.
"I will not back down. I will rule this country and will lead it through all of the problems," said Samak, noting that his party soundly won December elections restoring democracy after a 2006 military coup. He also defended himself against critics who say he should not have let protesters overrun the government's seat of power.
"I have been very patient and have refrained from using force," he said. "Many have criticized me for being too soft, but if the government (cracked down) we would be criticized for using excessive force."
Thousands of protesters remained camped out at the prime minister's official compound, known as Government House, in Bangkok where leaders called for 1 million people to join their ranks to demand an end to Samak's seven-month tenure. The crowd size has ranged from 2,000 to about 30,000.
"The protest has already developed into a people's revolution," protest leader Sondhi Limthongkul told The Associated Press. "I do believe that Samak is going to resign."
Saying that Western-style democracy has allowed corruption to flourish, the protest group has proposed a blueprint for a new government which would make parliament a mostly appointed body with only 30 percent of lawmakers elected.
Samak called an emergency parliamentary session Sunday for both houses to debate the crisis and try to resolve it through political means, said Surachai Phuprasert, a top aide to the prime minister.
Thailand's international image took a blow as airports in the southern beach areas of Phuket and Krabi remained closed for a second day Saturday. Protesters occupied the runways, preventing flights from departing and arriving, and there was no indication of when the airports would reopen, authorities said. Hat Yai airport, also in the south, reopened Saturday.
Bangkok's two airports were not affected by the strikes, the airport authority said.
Hundreds of railway workers continued their second day of a work stoppage by taking emergency sick leave, forcing the cancellation of more than 70 passenger trains throughout the country, said State Railways of Thailand spokesman Pairat Rojcharoen-ngarm.
Despite Samak's refusal to budge, his strength appeared to be fraying amid the growing chaos.
The country's influential army commander, Gen. Anupong Paochinda, rejected a request by Samak on Friday to declare a state of emergency, a top army official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information. Anupong has vowed that the army will not intervene and has called for resolving the crisis by political means.
The Chart Thai Party, a key member of Samak's six-party ruling coalition, said it was ready to suggest that Samak leave office.
"The coalition partners have the impression that the situation is deteriorating, and we are thinking of telling the prime minister to decide on the future of the government," said Somsak Prisana-anantakul, deputy leader of Chart Thai.
The People's Alliance for Democracy, the protest organizer, accuses Samak of corruption and of serving as a proxy for ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a 2006 bloodless military coup and banned from public office until 2012. Thaksin, who fled into exile in Britain, faces an array of corruption charges.
Samak led Thaksin's political allies to a December 2007 election victory, and their assumption of power triggered fears that Thaksin would make a political comeback on the strength of his continued popularity with Thailand's rural majority.
Anti-government protests started in May but gained momentum Tuesday when protesters occupied the Government House compound. The unrest escalated Friday when protesters clashed with police.
After police forced their way into the Government House compound to deliver a court eviction order, the alliance fought police in running street battles, charging, punching and hitting officers with sticks. They withdrew to display minor injuries they received when police fought back.
Claiming police brutality, alliance members later laid siege to city police headquarters, demanding the surrender of officers they accused of violence. As they pressed against the gates, police fired tear gas to disperse them.