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Protesters vow to stay in Bangkok commercial core

 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 hang a banner, which reads: Be patience, no violence, on an over fly for pedestrians during a rally calling the government and p...
 An anti-government demonstrator dances and sings songs along Silom Road in the downtown business district  in Bangkok, Thailand  Monday, April 5, 201...
 Supporters cheer as anti-government demonstrators gather on Silom Road in the downtown business district Monday, April 5, 2010, in Bangkok, Thailand....
 Anti-government demonstrators are cheered by supporters  Monday, April 5, 2010, along Silom Road in the downtown business district in Bangkok, Thaila...
 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...
 Protesters and supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra celebrate after pushing their way inside the building where the Election Commis...
 Supporters cheer as anti-government demonstrators gather on Silom Road in the downtown business district Monday, April 5, 2010, in Bangkok, Thailand....
 Anti-government demonstrators protest outside a building where the Election Commission office is situated in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday April 5. 2010....
 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...
 About 100 anti-government demonstrators rush towrds the Election Commission office in Bangkok, Thailand, on Monday, April 5, 2010. The protestors pus...
 Protesters and supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra celebrate after pushing their way inside a building where the Election Commissi...
 Anti-government demonstrators swarm to the entrance to a building where the Election Commission office is situated in Bangkok, Monday April, 5. 2010....

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 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

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

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

Thailand Politics

Anti-government demonstrators are cheered by supporters Monday, April 5, 2010, along Silom Road in the downtown business district in Bangkok, Thaila...

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...

APTOPIX Thailand Politics

Protesters and supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra celebrate after pushing their way inside the building where the Election Commis...

Thailand Politics

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

APTOPIX Thailand Politics

Anti-government demonstrators protest outside a building where the Election Commission office is situated in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday April 5. 2010....

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...

APTOPIX Thailand Politics

About 100 anti-government demonstrators rush towrds the Election Commission office in Bangkok, Thailand, on Monday, April 5, 2010. The protestors pus...

APTOPIX Thailand Politics

Protesters and supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra celebrate after pushing their way inside a building where the Election Commissi...

APTOPIX Thailand Politics

Anti-government demonstrators swarm to the entrance to a building where the Election Commission office is situated in Bangkok, Monday April, 5. 2010....

Thousands of defiant anti-government demonstrators fanned out to other parts of Thailand's capital and threatened businesses with ties to the government Monday after ignoring police orders to leave Bangkok's paralyzed commercial district.
Some protesters pushed their way into their newest target, the Election Commission, in anger that the body has yet to decide whether the ruling Democrat Party violated laws on financial donations, which could lead to the party's dissolution. No violence was reported and all protesters _ inside and outside the building _ left the area after a compromise was reached.
The protesters, mostly farmers from impoverished provincial areas who have characterized their movement as a class war against the Bangkok elite, have sworn not to let up their pressure until Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva steps down and calls new elections now. Abhisit has offered to call elections by the year's end.
The movement _ known formally as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship _ contends that Abhisit came to power illegitimately in the years after ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was removed in a 2006 coup on corruption allegations. The group is made up largely of Thaksin supporters and pro-democracy activists who opposed the putsch.
Abhisit has repeatedly rejected their demands, despite protracted protests in the capital and a deepening divide in Thai society. The country has been polarized by years of political turmoil.
Jatuporn Prompan, a protest leader, said 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 _ and also branch out to other locations.
Protesters, many riding motorcycles or pick-up trucks, staged smaller rallies in the city. The central Bank of Thailand said 43 branches of commercial banks in the metropolitan area were shut Monday as a precaution.
Jatuporn also threatened that big businesses would be "in big trouble" if they didn't sever their connections to the government.
Another protest leader, Kwanchai Praipana, led at least 10,000 followers to the Election Commission and after a tense confrontation, with the Red Shirts pressing up against the building, he entered to meet with the commissioners.
In the first substantial compromise reached by the opposing sides, the commission agreed to rule on the allegation against the Democrat Party on April 20 rather than the scheduled April 30.
Government opponents lodged the accusation last year, charging that the party received a 258 million baht ($8 million) donation from a Thai conglomerate. The Constitution bars donations of more than 10 million baht ($300,000) per individual or company.
Some 100 Red Shirts earlier pushed past police to enter the first floor of the building, but Kwanchai sent his guards to ask them to leave. The compromise was announced shortly thereafter.
In a departure from tradition, speeches by the protest leaders have become increasingly peppered by crude language, with government leaders variously referred to as adulterers, cowards and rats. There have also been veiled death threats against Abhisit.
Public insults and vulgar speech are traditionally shunned in Thailand, where the culture prizes politeness above almost all.
The protests that targeted the commercial district over the weekend forced the closure of more than six upscale shopping malls and tough security measures at nearby five-star hotels. Economic losses were estimated at up to 500 million baht ($15 million) a day, and the malls and many offices and banks in the area remained closed Monday.
The government sought a Civil Court injunction to order Red Shirt leaders out of the commercial area and prevent them from entering 11 other major roads in Bangkok. It was not certain when the court would act on the petition, signed by Abhisit.
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 with ties to the elite like Bangkok Bank and the giant agribusiness enterprise Charoen Pokphand Group, and attacked the head of the king's advisory council, Prem Tinsulanonda. Prem serves as an adviser to Bangkok Bank.
"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."
The protesters claim Prem, a one-time prime minister and head of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's Privy Council, was instrumental in the 2006 coup and continues to pull political strings.
Jatuporn said big businesses, the prime minister and the judicial system were all "remote-controlled" by Prem.
Allies of Thaksin _ whose policies of cheap health care and low-interest village loans benefited the rural poor from which many of the protesters are drawn _ won the first elections after the coup 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 : 2020-12-01 23:56 GMT+08:00