BANGKOK:About 10,000 "Red Shirt" supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra rallied in Bangkok today to pressure the Thai government over their petition seeking a royal pardon for the fugitive former prime minister.
The number of protesters in the capital's historic quarter could eventually reach 20,000, said deputy national police spokesman Piya Utayo, adding the security situation so far was "normal".
Thailand has deployed 2,000 police officers and invoked a harsh internal security law to ensure the demonstration in front of the government offices does not turn violent after earlier protests left two dead and 123 injured.
The protesters want the government to speed up the process of their petition, which they say at least 3.5 million signed in support of Thaksin, who fled the kingdom last August to escape a two-year jail term for corruption.
"Red Shirt people are rallying today to ask about the progress of our petition," protest leader Jatuporn Prompan told reporters, accusing the government of trying to delay their submission.
"We are here to send a signal to the government... We will come back by the end of the month. The protest will not end quickly." Twice-elected billionaire Thaksin, who will address his followers by phone late Saturday, was toppled in a military coup in 2006 and the nation is still deeply divided between his supporters and his foes.
Thaksin's backers forced the cancellation of a major Asian summit in April and then rioted for two days in Bangkok before a crackdown by the army. Thaksin still enjoys huge support among Thailand's poor, particularly in rural northern parts of the country.