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11 May 2009

Thai anti-government protesters rally again in Bangkok

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Around 10,000 Thai protesters rallied in Bangkok Sunday, police said, in the biggest rally against the government since the military cracked down on violent demonstrations a month ago, reported AFP.

The red-shirted supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the fugitive former prime minister, cheered when several leaders who were recently freed on bail after being arrested for inciting the riots appeared on stage.

The so-called "Red Shirts" forced the cancellation of a Asian summit last month and then rampaged through the capital, leaving two people dead and 123 injured, prompting current premier Abhisit Vejjajiva to declare emergency rule.

Opposition legislator Jatuporn Prompan told the protesters gathered in pouring rain on the outskirts of the city that they would "catch Abhisit's lies", raising a cheer from the crowd.

He said they had a video which disproved Abhisit's recent claim that he was in a car which was attacked by protesters during the Bangkok riots, an incident the prime minister said had made him fear for his life.

Jatuporn said the footage showed that British-born Abhisit was in another vehicle at the time.

Thousands of "Red Shirts" staged a three-week sit-in outside Abhisit's offices in Bangkok from late March before moving to the resort town of Pattaya to derail the summit of Asian leaders there on April 11.

Protesters clashed with security forces in Bangkok over the following two days but finally dispersed after troops surrounded them and threatened to move them by force.

Thai authorities detained several protest leaders and issued an arrest warrant for Thaksin, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and is now living abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption.

Abhisit lifted the state of emergency on April 24. Troops were however deployed on the streets of Bangkok this week to prevent protests when Asian ministers met to discuss the threat of Influenza A (H1N1).

Since Thaksin's ouster, Thai society has been deeply split between his supporters among the largely rural poor and powerful Bangkok cliques in the palace, military and bureaucracy.



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