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Thai Protesters Mark One Year Anniversary of Government Crackdown

A woman takes part in the 'Red Shirt' anniversary protest at Ratchaprasong Intersection in Bangkok, Thailand, May 19, 2011.
A woman takes part in the 'Red Shirt' anniversary protest at Ratchaprasong Intersection in Bangkok, Thailand, May 19, 2011.

In Thailand, thousands of anti-government protesters have gathered in Bangkok to mark one year since a deadly military crackdown ended their two-month demonstration. The protesters are calling for justice for the 91 people killed in Thailand's worst street clashes in decades.

Thailand's Red Shirt protesters on Thursday were back occupying the upscale commercial district they took over a year ago.

But, unlike those demonstrations that lasted from March to May, the thousands of red- dressed protesters say they will only stay one day.

Last year protesters were calling for a new election and equal treatment for their leaders. But after weeks of protests in central Bangkok, the military moved in to end the demonstrations and fought pitched battles with armed elements supporting the Red Shirts.

Wichien, 30, is an engineer from Bangkok. He says he was among those protesters who took refuge in a Buddhist temple to escape the fighting. He says he witnessed soldiers firing their guns into the temple, killing several unarmed civilians.

He says the killers should be arrested and sent to jail so the 91 people who were killed will not have died for nothing. But as of now, he says, no killers have been arrested.

Several of those who died were members of the security forces, and some victims over the two months of protests died in explosions police said were the work of the Red Shirts.

The Thai government says it is investigating the deaths and will punish those found responsible. But rights groups say authorities trying to investigate the matter are meeting resistance from the military.

This month Human Rights Watch reported that despite evidence that soldiers in some cases targeted civilians, and fired indiscriminately on crowds, none have been charged.

Hundreds of Red Shirt protesters were arrested following the crackdown. Most were released because of a lack of evidence. But more than 100 Red Shirt members remain in jail, and some face terrorism charges for their role in the protest.

Thursday's rally comes ahead of planned July 3rd nationwide elections that are expected to be closely contested between the Puea Thai Party, which is supported by the Red Shirts, and the ruling Democrat Party.

The Puea Thai Party is backed by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who despite being twice popularly elected, was ousted in a 2006 military coup. He has lived in exile since a Thai court found him guilty of corruption charges in 2008.

Thaksin and his supporters maintain that traditional elites in Bangkok backed by the military have long conspired against them.

Successive governments aligned with Thaksin were removed by controversial court orders that cleared the way for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's Democrats to take power.

This week Thaksin's younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was appointed Puea Thai's leading candidate for prime minister.