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Thai judges issue warrants to arrest protesters

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  • Thai judges issues arrest warrants for protest organizers
  • The protests were the latest by the People's Alliance for Democracy
  • Group is demanding the removal of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government
  • Group says Samak's administration is a proxy for former P.M. Thaksin Shinawatra
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BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- Thai judges issued arrest warrants Wednesday for anti-government protesters who led crowds to seize government buildings -- including the prime minister's residence and the state-run television station, the official Thai News Agency reported.

Police had asked the judges to issue warrants for nine leaders of the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the agency said. All nine have been charged with "severe" offenses, including rebellion, organizing a gathering of 10 or more people to cause a public disturbance, and defying police orders to disperse, TNA said.

Retired Major General Gamlong Srimuang, one of the PAD leaders, challenged the authorities to carry out the warrants but said none of the leaders would resist arrest, TNA reported.

Officials from the office of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej have asked for an immediate injunction to order the PAD to move out of the Government House compound, the agency said.

Police have tried unsuccessfully to negotiate an end to the protests, the agency said. Thousands of protesters still occupy the government compound after climbing over the railings and camping there Tuesday night, and they have blocked major roads. Video Watch more about the Bangkok protests »

The police have no intention to use force to disperse the demonstrators, a national police spokesman told the agency, but there have been a few scuffles between protesters and police, resulting in a few minor injuries, he said.

The protesters are demanding the prime minister's resignation. Their protests outside Government House have been going on for months, but the demonstrations grew Tuesday when hundreds of protesters took to nearby streets.

Some anti-government protesters also shut down state-run NBT television in Bangkok. Armed with guns and knives, they interrupted the station's programming until police arrested at least 80 of them, the Thai News Agency reported.

Eighty-two demonstrators arrested for breaking into the NBT broadcast facilities remained in police custody Wednesday after the judges denied bail, saying they had committed violent crimes. Police charged them with colluding with armed protesters and possessing and carrying firearms without permission.

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The protesters have prevented Samak from getting inside his official residence and prevented other government ministers from attending a weekly Cabinet meeting.

Samak refused to call a state of emergency, Thai News Agency reported. He said the government had the means and equipment to deal with the protests, but said he did not want to use them, as they could "damage the atmosphere," the news agency reported.

The protesters showed no sign of ending their demonstrations, and tried instead to fortify their positions with razor wire. Protesters also rallied outside the ministries of finance and agriculture.

PAD says Samak's administration is a proxy for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006 and fled to England.

Thaksin returned to Thailand after Samak came to power in parliamentary elections in December. He fled again this month, just as he was to appear in court in a corruption case.

The alliance contends Samak is trying to amend the constitution so Thaksin does not have to face the charges. It also blames the government for not trying to extradite the former prime minister.

Though the protesters want Samak gone, those who spoke to CNN's Dan Rivers seem unsure who they would want to take his place.

"They told me they know they want to get rid of Samak, Thaksin, and all their cronies, but the problem is they don't seem to know what will happen if they do," Rivers said. "The leader of the PAD, Sondhi Limthongkul, has told me that the entire political system needs to be changed, and says that perhaps Thailand isn't ready for full democracy because of the endemic corruption."

Thaksin won two landslide elections and a third which wasn't contested by the opposition. Samak's party won the December election by a narrower margin but made its allegiance to Thaksin clear.

PAD argues the votes were bought and the system is corrupt, hence the current deadlock.

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It is well supported among the middle-class and traditional elite of Bangkok, but outside the city -- especially in northeastern Thailand -- many despise the group.

That leaves a powerful minority in the capital that doesn't agree with the government that a vast majority outside Bangkok have elected, and Thaksin and Samak both remain popular.

CNN's Dan Rivers contributed to this report.

All About ThailandSamak SundaravejThaksin Shinawatra

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