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Thais Divided Over Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

Thai society faces growing divisions over whether Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra should stay in power or resign. Ron Corben in Bangkok spoke with many people in the city to hear their views.

New polls show that Thailand's political crisis is creating divisions within society, with more than 72 percent of those polled admitting to rising tensions among family members.

A growing number of people, mainly middle class, urban Thais, want Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to step down over allegations of abuse of power. Much of the anger rose up after Mr. Thaksin's family business, telecommunications giant Shin Corporation, was sold to a Singapore company, earning the family nearly $2 billion. For a month, Bangkok has seen a series of protests for and against Mr. T

haksin. On Tuesday, tens of thousands marched through the city to demand his resignation. The prime minister vows to remain in office and to press ahead with the April 2 snap election he called.

Students Trerachai, 20, and Jan, 19, want Mr. Thaksin step aside.

"I don't like Thaksin anyway so I want him to quit from the [post of] prime minister," Trerachai said.

"As the prime minister he use his power in the wrong way," Jan added.

Pattaporn, 25, thinks Mr. Thaksin did not give opposition parties enough time to prepare when he set the election for next month. But she thinks the opposition should take part in the vote, instead of boycotting it as planned.

She says it is the duty of the people to go ahead with the election so people can decide whether Mr. Thaksin should continue his work or allow others to form a government.

Khun Suk runs a street-side restaurant that provides low-cost meals to workers from nearby building sites and security guards at hotels.

He agrees with Mr. Thaksin that it was the right thing to ask the people to make a decision. It will become clearer during the election, he says, which side is right. Suk says the people in the area who come to his restaurant all want Mr. Thaksin to stay in office.

Nukul Chewtong - a Thaksin supporter - says it is the duty of people to vote.

The election, she says, is where the people come together to join hands and feel they have the right to vote. She will be voting for Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai Party - just as she has in the past.

No matter what they think about the prime minister, many Thais worry about the rising protests. The country's democracy has historically been fragile, marked by coups and brutal government crackdowns on dissent.

Mr. Thaksin has warned that he will declare an emergency if the protests turn violent.

Sunharee Phetrojana, a bank employee, says she only wants the situation to end peacefully.

"We want the peace - we also want the peace of the politics too and we want the peace in the bank too," she said. "Maybe the two sides have to talk in peace not to fight together. I don't think that the Thai people will fight together. They will have their own brain to think about this situation."

In downtown Bangkok, Monday, protesters came to encourage Thais to join the protests.

Kannit, a businessman, was standing nearby, listening to the speakers. He says he is very concerned over the outlook and hopes the Thai king will intervene.

"Right now it's closer to the danger zones in Thailand. So that's why I think the important thing for me - my idea - the king is the answer - yeah, the king is the answer," he said. "Every time when we have the bad situation in Thailand so the king will come to help the people."

Mr. Thaksin has won strong support in rural areas and among poor workers with policies such as low cost health care and promises of debt relief.

But the middle class, academics and the urban elite are angered by what they consider Mr. Thaksin's overreaching power in Parliament and they say he has abused his power to financially benefit his family and associates.

As a result, the country, families and work places are deeply divided with little immediate sign of the rifts healing anytime soon.