03/15/2010, 00.00
THAILAND
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Pro-Thaksin "Red Shirts" in showdown against Premier Abhisit

In a televised message Abhisit Vejjajiva rejects early elections because the government is legitimate and enjoys wide popular support. Yesterday Thaksin's supporters marched through the streets of the capital, but there were no problems of public security. Put aside - for now - the possibility of declaring martial law.

Bangkok (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva rejected the request for early elections, put forward by anti-government demonstrators yesterday gathered in a huge demonstration in central Bangkok. More than 150 thousand "red shirts" - supporters of exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra - marched through the capital demanding the resignation of the government and the dissolution of Parliament. Despite the fears on the vigil, there were no clashes with police.

In the first televised broadcast of such an event, promoted by the opposition party United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), Abhisit stressed that "the coalition parties have rejected the request for resignation." He confirmed that there will be new elections, because "we also have to listen to the views of others, not only of the demonstrators."  

The Thai premier has followed the march of the "red shirts" inside a military base in Bangkok. Yesterday at least 150 thousand opposition supporters marched through the streets of the capital, in a peaceful and orderly fashion. Approximately 50 thousand policemen and security forces were patrolling the evolution of events, avoiding direct contact with the crowd. The march ended with a video message from Thaksin, in which he commends the initiative of "his" people because "you are bringing democracy to Thailand."

Today tens of thousands of demonstrators headed toward the barracks that houses Abhisit. The military has sealed the entrances to the base with barbed wire and deployed hundreds of soldiers in riot gear. After his appearance on television, the Thai Prime Minister left the barracks aboard a Black Hawk military helicopter. Currently the executive rules out the possibility of declaring martial law in the country.  

The "red shirts" took to the streets demanding new elections, so they can return to power after the military coup in 2006 led to the ouster of then premier Thaksin. They argue that the current executive, appointed when  Abhisit took office in December 2008, is "illegitimate" and is based on the support of the military and the ruling class in the country.  

For four years, Thaksin Shinawatra has lived in exile in London and Dubai. He has recently been ordered to return 46 of the 76 billion baht (about 1.7 billion euros) which - according to judges - are the result of "abuse of power, concealment of assets and public tax fraud" made while he held the post of prime minister.

 

 

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