Thailand

Red Shirts arrive in Bangkok, may miss one million target

Members of "red guards", the internal security of supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, in Bangkok
Members of "red guards", the internal security of supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, in Bangkok Reuters

Tens of thousands of supporters of deposed Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra poured into Bangkok Saturday, ahead of a massive protest planned for Sunday. Organisers have promised to mobilise a million, although they are reported to have lowered their target to 600,000.

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The Red Shirt demonstrators, arriving from all of Thailand’s provinces, have to pass military checkpoints to enter the city. The government has mobilised 50,000 security personnel, saying it fears a repeat of violence after last April’s Red Shirt protests.

One of the demonstrators, retired teacher Sumalai Panya, accuses the authorities of double standards, enforcing tight security on Thaksin’s supporters while allowing his Yellow Shirt opponents free rein for their demonstrations last year.

“Certain people have plenty of special rights,” she told RFI. “Whatever they do, they are never wrong. The last time, they occupied the airport, they occupied the government headquarters for three months, but nobody said that was wrong … But our group has broken some minor rules, we haven’t committed any crime, but we haven’t quite gone by the book and there has been harsh repression against us.”

Thaksin fled Thailand after the military kicked him out of office and the courts launched corruption cases against him. He retains support, especially among the poor, rural population in the north of the country.

The Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship, which has organised the protest, wants Thaksin to be allowed to return to Thailand and the government to step down and face elections.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has refused to bow to their demands. He told reporters Saturdany that some of his opponents want to “create violence and cause confrontations”.

Thaksin, who has been living mostly in Dubai, has encouraged his supporters via text messages and Twitter.

“Thank you for your dedication … I want to give my support to the people in the north,” he tweeted Saturday.
 

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