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Thai Demonstrators Demand New Elections, Give 24 Hour 'Ultimatum'

  • Daniel Schearf

Tens of thousands of protesters wearing red gather in Bangkok, demanding parliament dissolve and government step down

Tens of thousands of protesters are demonstrating in Thailand's capital, Bangkok, demanding the current government step down and call new elections. The protesters have set a one day deadline for their demands to be met.

A sea of red clad protesters wave banners and cheer as a band plays music on stage. The protesters have been pouring into Bangkok all weekend by bus, boat, and motorcycle, mainly from the rural north, and now number in the tens of thousands.

Lining the roads leading off from the performance are hundreds of tents providing demonstrators with shade and stalls selling cold drinks and snacks.

The anti-government demonstrations are occupying the main avenue leading up to Thailand's government house and while festive, the protesters have a serious message.

They have set a deadline for the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, which they consider illegitimate, to step down and allow new elections.

Sean Boonpracong is the international spokesman for the red shirts.

"The most important message of this hour is we are giving the government ultimatum, 24 hours ultimatum, to dissolve the government ... dissolve the parliament, as we speak, 24 hours," Sean said. "And if they don't we're going to up the ante -- that means march around the city of Bangkok and we'll make that final decision tonight what we're going to do but we're not going to move today."

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said he will not give in to pressure but will allow for elections when the time is right.

Many of the red shirts are supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra because of his policies supporting the poor.

He was ousted in a 2006 coup and now lives in exile to avoid jail time for corruption charges.

The red shirts blame the elite in Bangkok for the coup and demonstrations in 2008 that overthrew a government friendly to Thaksin.

Ariwan Laripitak, a resident of Bangkok, was at the protest and says she is also unhappy with the current government.

"I want democracy and get Abhisit get out because Abhisit is a very bad man," Ariwan said.

The protests in Bangkok are the largest since April, when red shirts clashed with security, sparking riots that left two people dead and a trail of burnt public buses and other damage.

Fifty-thousand security personnel have been deployed around government house and key areas of Bangkok to prevent violence and damage to property.

The demonstrations have been peaceful and no violence has been reported. But, tensions are expected to build as the deadline protest leaders have set is not likely to be met.

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