Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Up to 100,000 join rally

Supporters of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra sit on the road outside the Government House during an anti-government protest in Bangkok April 8, 2009. --PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK - MORE than 100,000 anti-government protesters rallied in Bangkok on Wednesday in the biggest demonstration yet against Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, police said.

The deputy commander of Bangkok Metropolitan Police said that more supporters of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra were expected to turn up later.

'I have reported to the prime minister that currently there are more than 100,000 protesters, and more are expected to join them when night falls,' said the commander, Lieutenant General Chakthip Chaijinda.

He said there were fears that unidentified parties might try to incite violence at the protests, which come one day after protesters attacked Mr Abhisit's car and smashed one of its windows.

'We are worried that third parties may act tonight and may launch a bomb attack,' he told reporters. 'But we have enough officials and also a large number on stand-by.'

Demonstrators dressed in their signature red shirts massed outside Mr Abhisit's office, and also at the house of a top aide to the king whom they accuse of masterminding a 2006 coup that ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawtra.

Thousands of security forces guarded key sites across the capital, but there was no immediate sign of violence despite Mr Abhisit's warnings that a core group of protesters would try to provoke bloodshed.

British-born Abhisit has rejected the protesters' demands to dissolve his four-month-old government and hold fresh elections, and warned of strong action if there was any violence.

In Bangkok, police issued a formal warning to protesters not to enter the house of General Prem Tinsulanonda, a former premier who is now a key aide to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, after thousands of demonstrators ringed the compound.

Thaksin's recent accusations that Gen Prem conspired to overthrow him broke a major taboo in Thailand, where the royalty is revered, and fuelled the risk of what Mr Abhisit described earlier this week as a 'civil war'. -- AFP

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