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Thailand's ‘Red Shirts’ Rally in Defiance of Emergency Decree

Anti-government demonstrators stage a peaceful protest at Democracy Monument lighting candles and singing songs in honor of comrades killed by security forces in May. Bangkok, 10 Oct 2010.

In Thailand thousands of anti-government protesters paraded and rallied in the Thai capital, Bangkok, in memory of supporters killed in May in clashes with security forces. The demonstration was organized despite emergency laws forbidding such gatherings.

Police watched as anti-government protesters, dressed in red, chanted their respects for Thai Major General Sae Daeng, who was assassinated there by a sniper in May as he was being interviewed by journalists. Sae Dang supported their two-month occupation of Bangkok's historic and commercial districts and calls for new elections, underscoring political splits in the military.

Demonstrators then piled into trucks and onto motorcycles and paraded through areas where street clashes with security forces left 90 people dead, most of them protesters.

Parts of Thailand, including Bangkok, have since been under a state of emergency that outlaws public gatherings, restricts the media, and gives greater powers to police.

The parade disrupted traffic, but was otherwise peaceful and ended at Bangkok's Democracy Monument, a tribute to Thailand's 1932 change to a constitutional monarchy.

Thousands of protesters gathered at the monument and wore shirts and held posters opposing the current government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. The protesters, many of them from the countryside, say his government is supported by elites who conspired with the military to bring down their elected leaders.

For fifty four-year-old Kosin Teamsuwan the rally was all about democracy.

"The red shirts want democracy, democracy to my country, for the people. And, the red shirts have the support that ... they want justice for the people all in Thailand."

Critics say the red shirts want to bring back former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup and now lives in exile to avoid a sentence for corruption charges.

Last month, about 10,000 red-shirt protesters peacefully marked the four-year anniversary of the coup.

Thai authorities have made no attempt to prevent recent demonstrations, including by the yellow shirts, who rally against the red shirts and claim to protect Thailand's monarchy.

Thailand's factions seem to be testing how far they can pressure the authorities before elections, which the government is required by law to hold by the end of next year.