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Thai protesters consider breaking for holiday

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  • Hundreds of protesters mass outside Pattaya hotel hosting ASEAN summit
  • Anti-government protesters had issued a Thursday deadline for PM to resign
  • Protesters are loyal to ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in 2006 coup
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BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- Anti-government protesters in Thailand are considering suspending their demonstrations for the Thai New Year, one of their leaders said Friday.

A supporter of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra wearing his mask at a protest in Bangkok.

Thousands of anti-government protesters block a busy intersection during rush hour in Bangkok.

The thousands of protesters have rallied for days to demand that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva step down.

Nattavut Saikuea, a protest leader, said demonstrations may be suspended to allow Thais to celebrate the New Year from Monday through Wednesday next week.

Meanwhile, police have ordered tightened security measures around Bangkok after receiving intelligence that protesters may start fires and set off bombs Friday night, the commander of the Metropolitan Police said.

The bombs would be intended only to make loud noises as a way to create panic in the city, Lt. Gen. Worapong Chiewpreecha said.

He said he increased police checkpoints to more than 170 and asked the military to support the security effort.

Many Thais began leaving the capital city, Bangkok, on Friday to reach their homes in other parts of the country, leaving the streets to demonstrators.

Also Friday, hundreds of anti-government protesters amassed outside a hotel hosting a major Asian summit.

Some of the protesters and police engaged in shoving and shouting matches outside the Royal Cliff Beach Hotel in the beach resort city of Pattaya. But the demonstrations have been without incident otherwise.

The hotel is the site of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit. The demonstrators have said they will not try to disrupt the meetings inside.

The protesters had given Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva until Thursday afternoon to give in to their demands to step down. He ignored them.

Thailand is in the midst of a political crisis, with "red shirt" protesters rallying daily. The protesters, named for their clothing, say Abhisit was not democratically elected. They want him to schedule elections.

The protesters are loyal to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup. He fled Bangkok last year while facing trial on corruption charges.

The demonstrators ebb and flow in numbers. Attendance reached almost 100,000 on Wednesday but fell Thursday morning, said Metropolitan Police spokesman Maj. Gen. Suporn Pansuea.

Lawmakers named the 44-year-old, Oxford University-educated Abhisit prime minister in December.

Before then, a party loyal to Thaksin was in power -- and Thailand was contending with another group of protesters.

Those demonstrators -- the "yellow shirts" -- wanted Thaksin to return to Thailand to face the corruption charges. And they wanted the Thaksin-aligned People Power Party, which came to power in a general election, to step down.

Months of protests followed. Demonstrators occupied the government headquarters and blockaded Bangkok's major international airport, stranding tourists who provide much of the country's revenue.

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The demonstrations ended in early December when a court ruled that the People Power Party was guilty of electoral fraud and threw Thaksin's brother-in-law out of the prime minister's seat.

The red-shirt protesters said this week that they would not take over airports.

CNN's Kocha Olarn contributed to this report.

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