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Leader's support fading away

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej appeared increasingly isolated Wednesday as thousands of protesters kept him from entering his office for the eighth day and the army declined to enforce his emergency decree or even to state its support for him.

Although Samak continued to insist he would not step aside as prime minister, his options seemed to have narrowed as the perception grew that he could not command his own armed forces.

In another sign that Samak was losing support, his foreign minister, Tej Bunnag, resigned after just seven weeks in the job, according to a senior government official.

Tej cited personal reasons for his resignation, according to the official, but he said that Tej and other high-ranking officials had come under pressure from powerful figures close to the opposition to step down.

The government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to reporters, said Samak had sought an audience Wednesday with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, but declined to give a reason.

While he has no official role, the king exercises powerful moral authority and has been the arbiter of Thai crises. With the mood in Samak's office darkening, the official suggested that the army commander, Gen. Anupong Paochinda, was siding covertly with the demonstrators

“We think that a silent coup is what he's doing,” said the official. “It's passive resistance to the prime minister.”

On Monday, Samak declared a state of emergency that banned gatherings of more than five people or of any group that might cause disorder. The army chief and the chief of police were given control of Bangkok.

But on Tuesday, instead of enforcing the order, Anupong declared a neutral stance between his commander-in-chief and the protesters demanding Samak's resignation.

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