Several thousand supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
staged rallies to mark the third anniversary of a military coup that
toppled him from power in 2006. The
government has set in place tight security in a bid to avoid a repeat
of violence in April when the Thai army was called to disperse rioters
on the streets of Bangkok.
Heavy monsoonal rain showers greeted
thousands of so-called "red shirt" supporters of former prime minister
Thaksin Shinawatra as they gathered to listen to anti-government and
pro-Thaksin speeches Saturday, with many calling for fresh general
Pro-Thaksin supporters at the rally accused key advisers of the Thai
King of being behind the coup that brought an end to five years of
Thaksin's rule. The Thai leader was accused of corruption and abuse of
power while in office. He denies the charges and calls them
Mr. Thaksin was in the United States
attending the United Nations General Assembly when tanks and soldiers
occupied key buildings in Bangkok. The military appointed an interim
prime minister along with a national assembly. Fresh elections were
held in December 2007.
Mr. Thaksin returned to Thailand early
last year but faced with a corruption case he fled the country in
August 2008. He remains in exile. Mr. Thaksin was subsequently
convicted in absentia and sentenced to two years in prison. Other
corruption case verdicts are pending.
From exile Mr. Thaksin has maintained contact with supporters by giving speeches via video conference phone links.
Thaksin enjoys the support of many rural and low-income citizens who
have rallied for him since his removal. His so-called Red Shirt
protesters forced the cancellation of a major regional (ASEAN) summit
at a Thai resort in April. Protests for and against Mr. Thaksin and
his allies have led to multiple changes in leadership in the past three
Mrs. Korawee, a registered nurse, attending the rally, remains a fervent supporter of Mr. Thaksin.
love Thaksin," she said. "Thaksin very good. Thaksin superman. He helps
the people, he help the people, he help the people."
Korawee said many she knows are now suffering from a lack of jobs and
money. She says life is more difficult than when Mr. Thaksin was prime
Thailand is currently gripped by a deep recession
triggered by the global downturn. The government of Prime Minister
Abhisit Vejjajiva says economic stimulus packages should have a
positive impact on the economy in the later this year.
The Thai government said it had feared violence erupting at the rally and enacted emergency laws to deal with unrest.
Wattanayagorn, a government spokesman, said while authorities had
reports of potential trouble they expected the rally to go off largely
"So we expect that normal demonstration will go
accordingly but for those who want to push the demonstration, to become
violent they will be contained, they will be arrested, and they will be
stabilized," he said.
Thailand continues to face deep political divisions with few signs of reconciliation between competing groups for power.
recent weeks divisions have also emerged within the coalition
government adding to a climate of political instability and placing
pressure on Prime Minister Abhisit to call new elections.
Analysts say the government may go to the polls in early 2010.