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ASIA: Thai protesters hijack four city buses: police, officials 24 Nov 2008 7:21 PM

BANGKOK, Nov 24 AFP - Thai protesters hijacked four city buses to block traffic during anti-government demonstrations at state buildings in Bangkokon Monday, police and transport officials said.

Supporters of the so-called People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) on Mondaysurrounded Thailand's parliament and also descended on the finance ministry, police headquarters and the office of a party in the coalition government.

Virat Chokkatiwat, operations deputy director of the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA), said PAD supporters had in the morning stolen four buses which they used to help blockade the buildings.

"The protesters came up on the buses with clubs and asked passengers and the conductor to get off," he said.

"They left only the drivers before they took over the buses."

One bus was re-taken when police managed to shoot a tyre, but the other three vehicles remain in the hands of the PAD, he added.

Police officer Captain Pompetch Chotiklang said six PAD supporters had beenarrested in connection with the stolen bus, and police found guns, ammunition and slingshots on the arrested men.

"The suspects said they wanted to use the hijacked bus as a shield from anyshooting at Government House," Pompetch said.

The drivers were allowed to leave after they had taken the buses to protestlocations at parliament, police headquarters and the offices of Chart Thai, which is the second biggest party in the coalition.

They swiftly reported the bus thefts to police, Virat said.

There was no immediate comment from the PAD.

The PAD said their multi-pronged rally on Monday was the final battle in their campaign to topple the government, but after a parliament session was cancelled most of the demonstrators returned to their main protest site.

They have been camped out at Government House - the prime minister's cabinet offices - since they seized the compound in late August.