BANGKOK, Thailand — Thailand's prime minister pledged Friday to use peaceful means to end the siege of the capital's airports by antigovernment protesters and demoted the national police chief, amid speculation that he had disagreed with government policy.
But the likelihood of a violent confrontation still appeared high, as protesters and police reinforced their presence at Suvarnabhumi international airport, seized Tuesday by the People's Alliance for Democracy.
"Today, we see blood with our eyes. We will fight," said top protest leader Sondhi Limthongkul. "At this moment, there is no way we will negotiate."
The group is demanding the resignation of the democratically elected government, which it accuses of being a puppet of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a 2006 military coup and fled overseas to escape corruption charges. Current Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat is Thaksin's brother-in-law.
The capital remains cut off from civilian air traffic, stranding thousands of travelers and dealing a severe blow to the economy and tourism industry.
More protesters arrived at the airport in cars and buses despite roadblocks set up by police, boosting their number to several thousand.
One of the main elevated roads into the airport is controlled by the alliance's guards who are manning their own checkpoint.
Police, many in full riot gear, also had a much more visible presence, guarding an airport hotel and airport management offices, and assembling in a nearby administrative building. There appeared to be several hundred in the area.