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Protesters paralyze Bangkok's commercial center

 Anti-government demonstrators offer prayers to Buddhist monks Sunday, April 4, 2010, in downtown Bangkok, Thailand.  Thousand of "Red Shirts" are ign...
 Anti-government demonstrators shout insults at police during a rally Sunday, April 4, 2010, in downtown Bangkok, Thailand.  Thousand of "Red Shirts" ...
 Anti-government demonstrators gather to listen to speeches outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls Sunday, April 4, 2010.  Thousand of "...
 Anti-government leader Jatuporn Prompam, right, signs autographs for supporters Sunday, April 4, 2010, in Bangkok, Thailand.  Thousand of "Red Shirts...
 Anti-government demonstrators gather to listen to speeches outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls Sunday, April 4, 2010.  Thousand of "...
 An anti-government demonstrator sleeps on the pavement outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls Sunday, April 4, 2010. Thousand of "Red S...
 A Buddhist monk makes his way past anti-government demonstrators as they sleep on the pavement outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls S...
 Anti-government demonstrators gather to listen to speeches outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls Sunday, April 4, 2010.  Thousand of "...
 Anti-government demonstrators shout insults at police during a rally Sunday, April 4, 2010, in downtown Bangkok, Thailand.  Thousand of "Red Shirts" ...
 Anti-government demonstrators offer prayers to Buddhist monks Sunday, April 4, 2010, in downtown Bangkok, Thailand.  Thousand of "Red Shirts" are ign...
 A Buddhist monk makes his way past anti-government demonstrators as they sleep on the pavement outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls S...
 Anti-government demonstrators gather to listen to speeches outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls Sunday, April 4, 2010.  Thousand of "...

Thailand Politics

Anti-government demonstrators offer prayers to Buddhist monks Sunday, April 4, 2010, in downtown Bangkok, Thailand. Thousand of "Red Shirts" are ign...

Thailand Politics

Anti-government demonstrators shout insults at police during a rally Sunday, April 4, 2010, in downtown Bangkok, Thailand. Thousand of "Red Shirts" ...

Thailand Politics

Anti-government demonstrators gather to listen to speeches outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls Sunday, April 4, 2010. Thousand of "...

Thailand Politics

Anti-government leader Jatuporn Prompam, right, signs autographs for supporters Sunday, April 4, 2010, in Bangkok, Thailand. Thousand of "Red Shirts...

Thailand Politics

Anti-government demonstrators gather to listen to speeches outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls Sunday, April 4, 2010. Thousand of "...

Thailand Politics

An anti-government demonstrator sleeps on the pavement outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls Sunday, April 4, 2010. Thousand of "Red S...

Thailand Politics

A Buddhist monk makes his way past anti-government demonstrators as they sleep on the pavement outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls S...

Thailand Politics

Anti-government demonstrators gather to listen to speeches outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls Sunday, April 4, 2010. Thousand of "...

Thailand Politics

Anti-government demonstrators shout insults at police during a rally Sunday, April 4, 2010, in downtown Bangkok, Thailand. Thousand of "Red Shirts" ...

Thailand Politics

Anti-government demonstrators offer prayers to Buddhist monks Sunday, April 4, 2010, in downtown Bangkok, Thailand. Thousand of "Red Shirts" are ign...

Thailand Politics

A Buddhist monk makes his way past anti-government demonstrators as they sleep on the pavement outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls S...

Thailand Politics

Anti-government demonstrators gather to listen to speeches outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls Sunday, April 4, 2010. Thousand of "...

Thousands of anti-government protesters, defying a government order, occupied the commercial heart of Thailand's capital for a second day Sunday, vowing to hang on until new elections are called.
Many of the mainly poor, rural protesters known as the Red Shirts slept the night on trash-strewn pavements in the shadow of luxury hotels and shopping centers.
Area office buildings and more than a half-dozen shopping malls, normally packed with weekend shoppers, closed for security reasons for the second day Sunday. Traffic in the area was paralyzed.
Local newspapers quoted the Thai Chamber of Commerce as saying the economic losses from the takeover of the shopping and hotel area could reach 500 million baht ($15 million) a day.
Police passed out leaflets and used loudspeakers to order demonstrators to leave, saying they could face imprisonment and fines since they violated emergency decrees by disrupting traffic and commerce.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced on nationwide television Sunday morning that the two sides were reaching a possible compromise, but at the rally site, the protesters tore up many of the leaflets and showed no signs of leaving.
The Red Shirts' fourth weekend demonstration in Bangkok targeted the district of upscale hotels and glitzy shopping malls as they groped for tactics to force Abhisit to meet their demands, after failing to oust his government through peaceful mass marches and negotiations.
About 10,000 protesters gathered in the area Saturday, according to Metropolitan Police spokesman Piya Utayo. He said the total number of demonstrators, including those elsewhere in the city and on the move, reached nearly 55,000.
Among the businesses affected were the Siam Paragon, among the fanciest shopping malls in Asia, and hotels like the Grant Hyatt Erawan Hotel and the InterContinental Bangkok.
By Sunday morning, the numbers had dropped considerably. Mobile toilets, food and water were brought in, some of it from Bangkok's historic quarter where the protesters have camped since March 12.
"Today's another day when commoners will declare war to bring democracy to the country. There is no end until we win this battle," another leader, Jatuporn Prompan, said as protesters beat drums and chanted "Dissolve Parliament."
The Red Shirt movement _ known formally as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship _ consists largely of supporters of ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and pro-democracy activists who opposed a 2006 military coup that ousted him.
In a video phone-in Saturday night, Thaksin repeated his calls for the protesters to stay the course.
"Fight and be tired for a few more days. This is better than being tired for the rest of your lives due to injustice," he said. "I ask that those of you working the next few days to please take days off and join us here. Please be patient. Victory is just around the corner."
Protest leaders have portrayed the demonstrations as a struggle between Thailand's impoverished, mainly rural masses _ who benefited from Thaksin policies of cheap health care and low-interest village loans _ and a Bangkok-based elite impervious to their plight.
Thaksin's allies won elections in December 2007 to restore democracy, but two resulting governments were forced out by court rulings. A parliamentary vote brought Abhisit's party to power in December 2008. The Red Shirts say his rule is undemocratic and that only new elections can restore integrity to Thai democracy.
Abhisit must call new elections by the end of 2011, and many believe Thaksin's allies are likely to win _ which could spark new protests by Thaksin's opponents.
Residents of the sprawling Thai capital are divided in their view of the Red Shirts, with some merely fed up with the loss of business and traffic jams.
The protesters, whose numbers have peaked at about 100,000, have received support from lower-middle-class residents, many of them migrants from rural areas, but they are detested by many in professional, business and senior government ranks.
While some in the middle and upper classes have expressed sympathy for the Red Shirts' demands for a better economic deal and an end to inequalities in Thai society, they don't support the movement outright because Thaksin is its shadow leader.
Thaksin, a multimillionaire convicted of corruption and abuse of power, is a fugitive abroad but encourages the Red Shirts with frequent messages. His six years in office were riddled by accusations of nepotism and an erosion of democratic institutions.


Updated : 2021-04-23 23:48 GMT+08:00