Monday, December 27, 2010

Thaksin's supporters to rally next month in Thailand

via CAAI News Media

24 February 2010

BANGKOK - Thailand's "Red Shirt" protesters, led by supporters of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, said Wednesday they would start mass rallies from mid-March in a bid to force out the government.

The demonstrations will come two weeks after a Supreme Court verdict on the fate of US$2.2 billion worth of frozen assets belonging to Thaksin, which is due on Friday.

Red Shirt protesters from around the country would start travelling to Bangkok on March 12 and the rallies would begin in the capital's historic district on March 14, organisers said.

"We told our people to prepare themselves to rally for at least one week. It'll be the largest political demonstration in Thailand," said Jatuporn Prompan, one of the movement's leaders.

"This time we are more ready than last April when we attracted hundreds of thousands of protesters," he said.

In April 2009, the Red Shirts stormed a summit of Asian leaders and then rioted in Bangkok, leaving two people dead, but the unrest failed to bring down the administration of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Police at the time said the biggest of those Red Shirt rallies attracted around 100,000 people.

Another leader of the movement, Nattawut Saikuar, said that the protests would go ahead whatever the verdict in Friday's case, in which the government is trying to seize Thaksin's fortune.

"The Thaksin asset case has nothing to do with our rally, so whatever the verdict is we will continue to rally until the government collapses," Nattawut told reporters.

Thailand is deeply divided between supporters and foes of Thaksin, who was toppled in a military coup in 2006 and is living abroad to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption.

The Red Shirts, most of whom hail from Thailand's impoverished north and northeast, say Abhisit's government is an undemocratic mouthpiece for the interests of elite cliques in the palace, military and bureaucracy.

Thaksin's opponents say he was corrupt, dictatorial and disloyal to Thailand's revered king. He recently angered them by becoming an economic adviser to neighbouring Cambodia, with which Bangkok has tense relations.

Abhisit's government says it has deployed up to 35,000 security personnel across the country in case of violence after Friday's case, which centres on assets frozen after the coup.


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