Saturday, June 27, 2009

Thai protesters return to streets!

Red-shirted demonstrators in Bangkok, 27/06
The protesters want the government to resign and call elections

Thousands of protesters have gathered in Thailand's capital Bangkok to call on the government to resign, in the biggest rally since riots in April.

About 4,000 security officers are policing the red-shirted demonstrators, who are loyal to ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The rally organisers say Mr Thaksin will address the crowd by telephone from Dubai, where he lives in exile.

Protests in April led to the worst street violence in 15 years.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva called a state of emergency as the rallies by red-shirted protesters threatened to destabilise his government.

The protest leaders eventually called off their action after days of rioting and clashes with security forces left at least two people dead and more than 100 injured.

One of the organisers of the current protest, Nutthawut Saikua, told the Associated Press the aims of the demonstrators had not changed since the April clashes.

Thaksin Shinawatra, file image
Royalists saw Mr Thaksin's popularity as a threat to the monarchy

"We rally today because we want to get rid of the government, the aristocracy and bring back true democracy to the people," he said.

"We demand that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva resign and dissolves the [parliament] because the government is not democratic."

Mr Abhisit came to power last December after previous Thaksin-supporting governments were brought down by a concerted street protest by yellow-shirted demonstrators.

He was eventually chosen as leader after several MPs who had previously backed Thaksin were persuaded to change sides.

Analysts say the rift in Thai society - symbolised by the red and yellow shirts - remains strong.

Many Thais in rural areas support Mr Thaksin and ally themselves with the red-shirt cause.

The "yellow shirts" draw their support from Bangkok's urban elite, the middle classes and the conservative royalists.

BBC NEWS REPORT.

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