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Red Shirts rally to mark crackdown

Tuesday 22 February 2011, 03:02AM


 

Thousands of Thai "Red Shirts" gathered in Bangkok on Saturday to mark nine months since a bloody crackdown on their anti-government rally and to press for the release of detained leaders.

Police estimated around 30,000 protesters massed in the city at the peak of the rally, which had crossed from Bangkok's retail heart to Democracy Monument, both sites of bloodshed during last year's April and May demonstration.

Dressed in their trademark colour and waving banners, flags and plastic clappers, the crowd cheered loudly as the movement's key figures spoke to protesters.

"We came today to ask for justice for our people who died exactly nine months ago at this place," said Thida Thavornseth, leader of Red Shirt movement.

"They died for our fight we will ask for justice for them from those who do not show either political responsibility or legal responsibility," she said.

More than 90 died and nearly 1,900 were injured in clashes between protesters and the army during the two-month rallies in 2010 calling for immediate elections.

Thailand's political landscape has remained fractured since the unrest.

BIS Phuket

The mainly rural, working class Reds are broadly loyal to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and lives overseas to avoid a jail sentence for corruption imposed in absentia.

They view Thailand's current government as undemocratic because it came to power in 2008 in a parliamentary vote with the backing of the army after a court ruling threw out the previous administration.

This week Thailand's deputy prime minister suggested elections would be called by June.

Many key Red Shirt leaders remain in prison on terrorism charges and the protest movement has held a series of peaceful one-day rallies in the capital in recent weeks demanding their release.

Their arch-rivals -- "Yellow Shirt" nationalist activists who claim allegiance to the throne -- have been rallying near Government House recently in protest at Abhisit's handling of a deadly border dispute with Cambodia.

The Cabinet recently agreed to invoke the Internal Security Act in Bangkok to cope with the renewed political rallies.

Around 4,500 police officers were deployed in the city to maintain law and order, said national police spokesman Major General Prawut Thavornsiri.

 

 

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