Sunday, March 14, 2010

Anti-Government Rally Under Way in Thailand

Tens of thousands of protesters wearing red gather in Bangkok, demanding parliament dissolve.

Photo: AP
Anti-government demonstrators gather Sunday, March 14, 2010, in Bangkok, Thailand. Protest leaders have given the government until Monday at noon to accede their demands or face mass marches on key locations in Bangkok.

Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have gathered in the Thai capital to hold demonstrations aimed at toppling the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajhiva.

The protesters began their rally Sunday, and say they will continue their demonstration in Bangkok for several days.  Organizers say they are hoping for at least 600,000 supporters to turn out.  However, unofficial counts so far say no more than 100,000 have appeared on the streets in what has been a peaceful demonstration.

Dressed in red shirts, the demonstrators have been arriving in the city for days, waving flags and shouting slogans.

Many are backers of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup.

Mr. Thaksin currently lives in Dubai but is still popular among Thailand's poor and rural population.  His supporters have been demanding new elections, which they hope will return him to power.

Prime Minister Abhisit said Sunday he has no intention of stepping down or dissolving parliament.  He also said the government has no plans to crack down on protesters.
Tens of thousands of security forces have mobilized in Bangkok to maintain order.

Organizers of the protest, from the opposition United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship say the demonstration will be peaceful.

The last opposition protest in April 2009 deteriorated into a riot which left two people dead and many others injured.  There was also considerable damage.

Recent polls show that a large segment of the Thai population is fed up with protests, which have hurt their country's lucrative tourism industry.

Mr. Thaksin left the country to avoid a 2-year prison sentence on corruption charges.

Prime Minister Abhisit is backed by Thailand's upper class. 
 Ref: VOA


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