Pro-Thaksin militants vow to rally until new Thai government falls

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Asia-Pacific News

Dec 25, 2008, 9:10 GMT

Bangkok – A militant body loyal to fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra vowed Thursday to rally in the capital until the new government falls.

Leaders of the pro-Thaksin group, who wear red shirts to distinguish themselves from yellow-clad anti-Thaksin demonstrators, said the current government was illegitimate because it was foisted into power by a combination of military machinations, judicial manoeuvring and illegal protests.

The United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship – the Red Shirts – plan to rally in the big Sanam Luang central parade ground this Sunday. Jatuporn Prompan, a leader, said they might also descend on Parliament in a bid to prevent the new government from reading out its policy statement on Monday, added the Bangkok Post online.

The size of Red Shirt protests this weekend will be an important gauge of overt popular opposition to a new five-party coalition that obtained power after the main parties previously in power were dissolved for electoral fraud by court order.

The country remains divided between Thaksin’s rural supporters, who liked his populist financial handouts, and groups loyal to Bangkok elites who loath his alleged corruption and power-mania. The anti-Thaksin groups claim to be protecting the monarchy and wear the colour yellow, which is identified with the king.

The sting may have been partially taken out of the pro-Thaksin demonstrations by the defection of an influential group of rural politicians to the new government.

The prime minister and leader the Democrat Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva, said he might seek a popular mandate by calling a general election after solving the country’s political and economic problems, reported the Thai News Agency.

Abhisit said it was ‘not necessary to fix a timeframe’ for election, but added that the government would lose credibility if it cannot make headway in solving the country’s problems within two or three months.

The police will deploy nearly 3,000 officers to defend Parliament during the policy debate on Monday and Tuesday.

The Red Shirts are likely thinking of a similar protest on October 7th when the Yellow Shirts embarrassed the previous government by surrounding Parliament during its own policy reading. The police were later criticized for using Chinese-made exploding tear gas grenades resulting in two deaths and 500 injuries.

Thaksin was ousted by a coup on September 19, 2006, and was banned from politics for five years in May 2007. But he returned to power, behind the scenes, after the pro-Thaksin People Power Party (PPP) won the December 23, 2007 polls.

The anti-Thaksin People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) led six months of protests against the PPP, finally seizing Bangkok’s two airports in their effort to topple the government.

The manoeuvre preceded a court decision to dissolve the PPP for election fraud on December 2, allowing the Democrats to forge a new coalition government, even though they came in second in the 2007 polls. Thaksin is living in self-exile as a fugitive from a two-year jail sentence on an abuse of power charge.

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