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Defiant protesters to fan out in unnerved Bangkok

 Anti-government demonstrators gather to listen to speeches outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls Sunday, April 4, 2010. Thousands of a...
 Anti-government demonstrators gather to listen to speeches outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls Sunday, April 4, 2010. Thousands of a...
 Anti-government demonstrators gather to listen to speeches outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls Sunday, April 4, 2010.  Thousands of ...
 Anti-government demonstrators gather to listen to speeches outside one of Bangkok's many upscale shopping malls Sunday, April 4, 2010. Thousands of a...
 An anti-government demonstrator, heavily tattooed, looks on during a rally Sunday, April 4, 2010, in downtown Bangkok, Thailand. Thousands of anti-go...

Thailand Politics

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

Thailand Politics

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

Thailand Politics

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

Thailand Politics

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

Thailand Politics

An anti-government demonstrator, heavily tattooed, looks on during a rally Sunday, April 4, 2010, in downtown Bangkok, Thailand. Thousands of anti-go...

Thousands of defiant anti-government demonstrators vowed Monday to expand their protests to other parts of Thailand's unnerved capital after ignoring police orders to end their occupation of Bangkok's paralyzed commercial district.
The protesters, mostly farmers from impoverished provincial areas, have sworn not to let up their pressure until the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva steps down and new elections are called.
Jatuporn Prompan, a protest leader, said Sunday night that the demonstrators would branch out to an undisclosed location, but also maintain bases within both Bangkok's commercial heart and the separate historic quarter of the city where they began to encamp March 12.
The weekend protests forced the closure of more than six upscale shopping malls and tough security measures at nearby five-star hotels, with economic losses estimated at up to 500 million baht ($15 million) a day. It was not known whether the shopping centers would open for business Monday.
Earlier, protest leaders had indicated they would vacate the commercial area if a court issued an eviction order. However, there was no word of any court order Monday morning.
Abhisit has repeatedly refused demands of the so-called Red Shirts that he immediately dissolve Parliament and call new elections, despite protracted protests in the capital and unsuccessful negotiations last week.
Army spokesman Col. Sansern Kawekamnerd on Sunday warned the Red Shirts not to enter other nearby business or residential areas and said the government has barred them from 11 major roads in the capital.
Abhisit said that the protesters have violated the Constitution, but so far the government has refrained from using force against them despite growing opposition to the Red Shirts by segments of the Bangkok population fed up by business losses and disruption of daily life.
Many of the protesters slept again Sunday night on trash-strewn pavements in the shadow of the luxury hotels and shopping centers.
"I'm impressed by the leaders. They've shown the tough stuff that we so need," said Thongyoi Jitmun, a protester from northeastern Thailand. "For the government's part, their effort has been futile. What else can they do to us? We're told what we're doing is legal. I'm not going to give up so easily. We only live once."
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 on corruption allegations.
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.
Thaksin, a multimillionaire convicted in absentia on corruption-related charges, 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 : 2021-03-01 00:36 GMT+08:00