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By Noppawan Bunluesilp
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said on Saturday he would not quit in the face of growing protests aimed at toppling his seven-month-old government.
Speaking at an official event, Samak said he had requested an audience with Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej later on Saturday to brief him on the political situation.
Samak said he had tried to reach a compromise with the thousands of protesters who have occupied the prime minister's official compound since Tuesday and vowed to stay until he quits.
"I will never resign in response to these threats," Samak said to cheers and clapping from the crowd attending a ceremony at a sports stadium to honour the king and queen's birthdays.
Samak said his six-party coalition government had been legally elected in December and he could not be removed by unconstitutional means.
"I came to this job under a legal mandate. I will only go if the law does not allow me to stay and not simply because someone issues threats and puts pressure on me," he said.
Samak said he would fly to the coastal town of Hua Hin to meet King Bhumibol at his palace there at 5 p.m. (1000 GMT).
Samak flew there late on Friday but it was not clear if he had met the constitutional monarch, who is considered above politics in Thailand but has intervened in past crises.
Behind their makeshift barricades, thousands of protesters led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) milled around the Government House compound, listening to fiery speeches and singing patriotic songs.
Clashes erupted briefly on Friday evening when a 2,000-strong crowd attacked Bangkok's police headquarters. Around 30 were injured as police repelled them with rubber bullets and teargas.
Samak met military officials on Friday amid speculation that he may impose a state of emergency, but army chief Anupong Paochinda told reporters he had rejected the idea.
The Bangkok Post reported that Anupong spoke privately to Samak after the meeting and "suggested the prime minister consider stepping down or dissolving the House of Representatives as possible options".
Newspapers condemned Friday's violence and chaos, which stretched to protesters blocking three airports, including one on the tourist island of Phuket, and striking workers halting some rail services.
"The only acceptable form of damage limitation is a speedy return to conduct befitting a civilised society and the rule of law. To behave otherwise is to invite anarchy and chaos," the Bangkok Post said in an editorial.
One of the airports, in the southern town of Hat Yai, was functioning again on Saturday.
The protests are being led by the PAD, a motley group of businessmen, academics and activists who accuse Samak of being an illegitimate proxy of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, now in exile in London. Samak denies the accusation.
The assault on police headquarters came hours after scuffles between PAD supporters and riot officers delivering a court eviction order to the gates of the protest zone. The court later said it had retracted the order pending a PAD appeal.
The PAD proclaims itself to be a defender of the king against a supposed Thaksin plan to turn Thailand into a republic -- a charge denied by both Thaksin and the government.
Thai shares have fallen 23 percent since the PAD's street campaign began in May amid fears of policy paralysis at a time of stuttering economic growth and high inflation.
(Additional reporting by Vithoon Amorn)
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