An anti-government protest leader eluded police today by climbing down a hotel facade with a rope while his supporters took two officers hostage in a theatrical twist to Thailand's political crisis. Arisman Pongruangrong's escapade at a hotel in downtown Bangkok – where police had converged to arrest holed up protest leaders – was an embarrassment for the government. Authorities have tried without success to end a month-long sit-in by tens of thousands of "red shirt" protesters in some of Bangkok's most popular shopping and tourist districts. At least 24 people were killed last week when troops tried to clear a group of protesters. The failed crackdown signalled the government was willing to risk another confrontation with the red shirts – who are campaigning against the prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva.