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Defiant Thai protesters fan out in nervous capital

 An anti-government demonstrator dances and sings songs along Silom Road in the downtown business district  in Bangkok, Thailand  Monday, April 5, 201...
 A blind beggar sings Monday, April 5, 2010, in Bangkok, Thailand, as anti-government demonstrators gather on Silom Road in the downtown business dist...
 A group of activists stage a rally urging the government and protesters to end the ongoing political crisis through a peaceful means Monday, April 5,...
 A group of activists hang a banner, which reads: Be patience, no violence, on an over fly for pedestrians during a rally calling the government and p...
 Anti-government demonstrators gather along Silom Road in the downtown business district Monday, April 5, 2010, in Bangkok, Thailand.   Thousands of d...
 Supporters cheer as anti-government demonstrators gather on Silom Road in the downtown business district Monday, April 5, 2010, in Bangkok, Thailand....
 A Thai soldier watches from an over fly at a group of activists staging a rally urging the government and protesters to end the ongoing political cri...

Thailand Politics

An anti-government demonstrator dances and sings songs along Silom Road in the downtown business district in Bangkok, Thailand Monday, April 5, 201...

Thailand Politics

A blind beggar sings Monday, April 5, 2010, in Bangkok, Thailand, as anti-government demonstrators gather on Silom Road in the downtown business dist...

Thailand Politics

A group of activists stage a rally urging the government and protesters to end the ongoing political crisis through a peaceful means Monday, April 5,...

Thailand Politics

A group of activists hang a banner, which reads: Be patience, no violence, on an over fly for pedestrians during a rally calling the government and p...

Thailand Politics

Anti-government demonstrators gather along Silom Road in the downtown business district Monday, April 5, 2010, in Bangkok, Thailand. Thousands of d...

Thailand Politics

Supporters cheer as anti-government demonstrators gather on Silom Road in the downtown business district Monday, April 5, 2010, in Bangkok, Thailand....

Thailand Politics

A Thai soldier watches from an over fly at a group of activists staging a rally urging the government and protesters to end the ongoing political cri...

Thousands of defiant anti-government demonstrators fanned out to other parts of Thailand's capital on Monday after ignoring police orders to end their occupation of Bangkok's paralyzed commercial district.
Their major target was the Election Commission, where columns of "Red Shirts" threatened to storm the building unless the commission chief met them for talks.
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 maintain bases within both Bangkok's commercial heart and the separate historic quarter of the city _ where they began to encamp March 12 _ but also branch out to other locations.
Jatuporn also issued a threat to big businesses, saying they would be "in big trouble" if they didn't sever their connections to the government.
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. Doors of the shopping centers as well as many offices and banks in the area remained closed Monday.
On Sunday, the government said a court would issue an eviction order, which the protesters planned to defy.
"It doesn't matter if there is a court order or not. We're marching on regardless," another protest leader, Nattawut Saikua, told followers. He said another line of leaders was already prepared to take over the movement if he and others in the current Red Shirt leadership were arrested.
Abhisit has repeatedly refused demands of the 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 pressure from segments of the Bangkok population fed up by business losses and disruption to daily life.
In an impassioned speech Monday morning, Jatuporn warned major businesses like Bangkok Bank and Charoen Pokphand Group, a giant agribusiness enterprise, and attacked the head of the king's advisory council, Prem Tinsulanonda.
"If Charoen Pokphand wants to side with the government, then we shall see how long it can survive without Red Shirt customers," he said. "Imagine if all the Red Shirts decide to withdraw their money from Bangkok Bank."
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.
The protesters claim Prem, a one-time prime minister and head of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's Privy Council, was instrumental in the coup and continues to pull political strings.
Jatuporn said big businesses, the prime minister and the judicial system were all "remote-controlled" by Prem.
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 protests by Thaksin's opponents.
Thaksin, a multimillionaire convicted in absentia on corruption-related charges, is a fugitive abroad and 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 : 2021-07-27 14:47 GMT+08:00