Deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra spoke by telephone to tens of
thousands of supporters who filled a stadium in Thailand's capital,
He told his supporters, who were wearing red shirts to signal their pro-government stance, that he could not return to Thailand because he had been sentenced to prison in Thailand. But he suggested a royal pardon could allow him to come home.
It was the first time Mr. Thaksin had spoken to supporters since he fled the country in August amid corruption charges. He has since been sentenced to two years in prison by a Thai court.
At least 2,000 police and soldiers were mobilized to guard against violence at the rally amid long-running political unrest in the capital.
Mr. Thaksin's opponents -- led by the Peoples Alliance for Democracy -- have surrounded the prime minister's residence in Bangkok since August demanding the government step down.
A court removed Samak Sundaravej as prime minister in September. He was replaced by Somchai Wongsawat, who is Mr. Thaksin's brother-in-law.
Mr. Somchai is under increasing pressure to step down since a political protest turned violent October seventh in which two people were killed and more than 400 were injured.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.