We’re demanding the government give up its administrative power by dissolving
parliament and returning power to the people,” Veera Musikapong, a protest
leader, told followers.
The demonstrators converged near government offices in the capital, demanding
that Abhisit Vejjajiva, the prime minister, call new elections. A force of
50,000 soldiers, police and other security personnel was mobilised to keep
control. The Red Shirts – mainly from the country’s impoverished north and
north-east – support the deposed populist premier Thaksin Shinawatra, 60 –
the former owner of Manchester City football club – who was ousted by a 2006
They believe Mr Abhisit, 45, came to power illegitimately with the help of
parts of the traditional ruling class who were alarmed by Mr Thaksin’s
The protesters, formally known as the United Front for Democracy Against
Dictatorship, said they would march on key locations in the city if the
government failed to step down, including the headquarters of an infantry
regiment, where Mr Abhisit has been living in recent days.
In his weekly radio address yesterday, Mr Abhisit indicated that he had no
plans to dissolve the legislature.
Forcing the government out of power, Thaksin loyalists say, could pave the way
for his pardon and return.
Mr Thaksin, who lives in exile in Dubai, faces a two-year prison term for
abuse of power. But he remains popular among the poor because of the cheap
medical care, low interest loans and other measures his government enacted.