take to streets to win over Thai capital
of red-clad Thai protesters began to snake across
Bangkok on Saturday in a festive travelling rally
aimed at winning over the city’s residents to their
flagging anti-government campaign.
Police said around 20,000 “Red Shirts” joined the
convoy across the capital in pick-up trucks, buses,
cars and on motorcycles after they rejected a
conditional offer of talks by Prime Minister Abhisit
Vejjajiva a day earlier.
The group planned to zig-zag along 45 kilometres (28
miles) of Bangkok’s main roads bearing flags, smiles
and music, in an attempt to recruit residents to
their waning rally calling for elections, now into
its seventh day.
Backers of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, the
Reds - mainly from poor rural areas - say they are
fighting Thailand’s elites in bureaucratic, military
and palace circles, whom they accuse of ousting
The protesters say Abhisit’s government is
illegitimate because it came to power with army
backing via a December 2008 parliamentary vote,
after a controversial court ruling removed Thaksin’s
“We will travel to find love from the people of
Bangkok and to unite them with us, the poor
peasants, to overthrow the elite-backed government,”
protest leader Veera Musikapong told the crowds
before their convoy set off.
Protest numbers peaked at more than 100,000 last
Sunday and have so far been peaceful, but army
spokesman Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumnerd said he
worried “there could be some clashes” Saturday.
The protesters picketed an army base on Monday and
on Wednesday threw bags of their blood at the walls
of the prime minister’s family home after staging
the same stunt at his office a day earlier.
But the premier has stood firm in his rejection of
the protesters’ demand for elections, and said talks
could only take place once the rally had dispersed.
Since Thaksin was ousted, Thailand has been
rocked by protests by both his supporters and his
opponents, many of whom are in Bangkok and accuse
him of corruption and of disloyalty to the revered
Thai PM admitted his country is divided
Thousands of demonstrators are still camped out in
Bangkok after a week of rallies which saw them
daubing blood on the gates of Government House. But
they number far fewer than those who gathered at the
start of this week.
Speaking to the BBC from a military base, Abhisit
said he had offered to meet leaders of the red-shirt
movement to talk about their grievances.
The prime minister appeared confident and pleased
with the way he had handled the demonstration so
far, but admitted the country was divided, and not
just between the cities and the rural areas.
“I’m saying that the divisions do run deep, and that
political differences occur in a democracy,” he
said. “But we have to stick to the rule of law.”
“We try to make sure that we can somehow move this
country forward in terms of political conflicts, so
that they can be resolved through the ballot box and
also through the court procedures, depending on the
issues, and that all governments must try to address
the issues that are of concern to urban and rural
- AFP/BBC news