THAILAND: Thaksin supporters go ahead with rally

Straits Times
Monday, April 9, 2007
Photo by BangSai Villager

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Bangkok — More than 1,000 protesters rallied against Thailand’s
junta yesterday, police said, despite a government warning that such
rallies could provoke a state of emergency in the capital.

The protesters, led by allies of ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who
was deposed in a coup last September, organised the demonstration at
Sanam Luang park outside Bangkok’s municipal centre.

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Police Major-General Manit Wongsomboon said he had deployed about
1,000 police officers, both uniformed and plainclothes, around the area
where about 1,200 demonstrators had gathered early yesterday evening.

The crowd held banners attacking the military-installed government
headed by former General Surayud Chulanont, and called for the return
of Mr Thaksin.

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Maj-Gen Manit said the police presence was heavy because of a
parallel gathering at the venue marking the start of celebrations for
the Buddhist New Year.

A similar rally more than a week ago had attracted between 2,000 and
3,000 people. Junta leader Sonthi Boonyarataglin had urged the
government to declare an emergency last month in the face of small but
growing protests against the coup.

Gen Surayud refused, but Defence Minister Boonrawd Somtas on
Saturday warned that a state of emergency would be declared if the
protests got out of control.

Meanwhile, the government has shut down a political online chatroom,
the website said yesterday, just days after YouTube was blocked for
videos deemed insulting to the king.

The political page of Pantip.com was closed for national security
reasons at the request of the Information Communication and Technology
Ministry, a notice on the website read.

Pantip is a popular chatroom in Thailand. Its political pages often
feature feisty debates about democracy, the military junta and the
legitimacy of the coup that brought them to power last year.

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