Red Shirts descend on Bangkok for rally

BANGKOK: Thousands of supporters of deposed Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra gathered near ministry buildings in Bankgkok today to rally against the government, sporting their signature red shirts.

Police said about 12,000 Red Shirts had arrived at a stage rigged up near a Bangkok bridge, while some 50,000 protesters had passed through military checkpoints set up at entry points to the capital throughout the day.

“The official number at (the) bridge now is 12,000, but 50,000 protesters and 7,000 vehicles have gone through the checkpoints,” said a police spokesman, Major General Prawut Thavornsiri. Thai authorities have used a tough security law to deploy a 50,000-strong security force, including soldiers, to patrol the streets and search. The Red Shirts travelled mostly by pick-up truck and car, playing loud music and waving red flags and heart-shaped clappers in jubilant spirits. “Tomorrow we will declare our demands to the government, that it must step down and dissolve the house,” Red Shirt Jatuporn Prompan said at the rally site.

Current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who has refused to bow to protesters’ demands, spoke to reporters after meeting ministers and top brass at a military barracks today.

“We should not be complacent because there are some groups of people still wanting to create violence and cause confrontations,” said Abhisit.

The government has lowered its estimate of expected turnout at tomorrow’s rally to 70,000, but the Red Shirts say the figure will be nearer 600,000.