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Thai protest leaders to surrender to police

By the CNN Wire Staff
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'Red shirt' leaders evade arrest
  • Those turning themselves in are wanted by Thai police
  • Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva hands over security operations to the military
  • Anti-government group backs ousted former PM Thaksin Shinawatra
  • At least 23 people killed in deadly police-protester clashes last weekend

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- Leaders of Thailand's anti-government protests said Saturday that they we would turn themselves in to police on May 15.

Lawyers for the protesters sent letters to the Thai government saying that 24 members of the group would turn themselves in, leader Weng Tojirakarn said.

Those turning themselves in have been named on arrest warrants and were wanted by Thai police.

Three of the people surrendering to police embarrassed the Thai government earlier this week during a botched raid. The three were able to elude security forces who had them surrounded in a Bangkok hotel.

The three men were lowered from a third-floor window on a rope and fled in a waiting truck as a large group of protesters cheered.

The escape was captured by television cameras and prompted Thailand's prime minister to hand over security operations to the military.

Video: Thailand cracks down on protesters

"The important problem now is the terrorism," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said, referring to what authorities say is a terrorist group mixing among protesters. He spoke in a televised broadcast after three days of silence amid the tumult in his country.

At least 23 people were killed in deadly police-protester clashes last weekend, the Bangkok Emergency Medical Service said. More than 850 others were wounded in the clashes, the service said.

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The protesters, known as red shirts for the clothes they wear, have been demanding for weeks that the prime minister dissolve the parliamentary body and call new elections.

In addition, the group wants the prime minister to leave the country.

If the 64-year-old party is dissolved, its senior leaders -- including Abhisit -- will be banned from politics for five years. The process can take up to six months.

The anti-government group comprises supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 2006.

CNN's Kocha Olarn contributed to this report.