Sunday, March 14, 2010
Anti-government demonstrators threaten to paralyze Bangkok
Word comes from Bangkok that red-shirted demonstrators massing since Friday plan to take their anti-government protest to a nearby military base to dramatize their demand that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolve parliament and call new elections. The size of the protest, which has grown since Friday and is now estimated at more than 150,000 demonstrators, illustrates the sharp political division in Thai society exacerbated by the court-ordered ouster of former leader Thaksin Shinawatra in 2008. Thaksin, populist leader of largely poor, rural voters from Thailand's countryside, had been ousted in a military coup in 2006 and accused of corruption, but his supporters were returned to power by voters in 2007. That government was accused of election malfeasance and removed by the courts in 2008 "We will march over there, brothers and sisters. We will go to the infantry to get an answer from Abhisit himself," said Nattawut Saikua, a leader of the protest group, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), according to the Reuters international news service. "With this many people on the streets, I don't see how he still thinks he has any legitimacy." Abhisit came to power following the removal of the pro-Thaksin government and the court-ordered dissolution of his political party, which followed months of demonstrations by yellow-shirted Abhisit supporters. Later, the court ordered Thaksin to surrender more than $1 billion in assets it said were improperly acquired, Reuters said. The yellow shirts occupied the prime minister's office for three months and blockaded Bangkok's international airport until the government was dissolved.