BANGKOK, Thailand — Thailand's government backed off today from a threat to forcibly remove protesters occupying Bangkok's two airports in an effort to oust the prime minister.
Officials said police would avoid violence and attempt to negotiate.
Thousands of tourists have been stranded since protesters occupied the main international Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday and the smaller Don Muang Airport on Wednesday. Both airports are shut down.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat declared a state of emergency at the airports, authorizing police to take back the terminals. The order appeared to indicate that a crackdown was imminent against the members of the People's Alliance for Democracy.
But eight hours later, government spokesman Nattawut Sai-Kau told the Associated Press that police have been instructed to get the protesters out of airports "as soon as possible" in a "peaceful manner."
The army commander, Gen. Anupong Paochinda, has so far been neutral in the political turmoil and even suggested that Somchai call new elections, triggering speculation that a military coup could take place. The whispers were further fueled by tank movements that the military later said were a training exercise.