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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 March 2006, 08:23 GMT
Anti-Thaksin rally takes to the streets
By Kate McGeown
BBC News, Bangkok

Anti-Thaksin protesters
Many of the marchers had also been to an overnight rally
"Thaksin get out!" the protesters shouted in unison as they marched down the streets of Bangkok to Government House.

Holding yellow and orange banners aloft, the disparate mix of students, business workers, activists and union members had one aim in common - to get rid of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

"Thaksin only does his job so he can get benefits for himself," said one protester, Boonma. "He never thinks about his country - only himself."

Tuesday's anti-Thaksin rally was the latest in a series of protests in Bangkok, called amid growing anger over the prime minister's alleged corruption and abuse of power.

Pheeiarat, 53
I will stay here and protest until Thaksin goes
Pheeiarat, 53
The main accusations centre on the $1.9bn sale of his family company to a Singaporean firm - a move many Thais see as disloyal, especially as Mr Thaksin's family avoided paying any taxes.

Many held banners calling for non-violent protest against Mr Thaksin, with signs such as "Change through peace".

Others were more direct. "Thaksin: Wanted dead or alive" one poster read, with a picture of the prime minister with a swastika on his forehead.

Planned sit-in

Many of the demonstrators were in it for the long haul, having already stayed overnight to rally in Sanam Luang field near Bangkok's Royal Palace.

"I have been up all night, and I will stay here and protest until Thaksin goes," said Pheeiarat - who has attended all the anti-government rallies in the last few months.

Despite their lack of sleep, the protesters were in buoyant mood, singing and chanting - even stopping for photo calls - as they moved along the wide boulevards in Bangkok's government district.

Some held up the blue flags of the Santi Asoke Buddhist Sect - the so-called "Dharma Army" - whose leader Chamlong Srimuang is one of the main protest leaders.

Police outside Government House
Police guarding Government House had little to do
Others wore yellow headbands in a sign of allegiance to the king. Still others were members of labour unions or middle class urbanites who were galvanised into action late last year by media tycoon Sondi Limthongkul.

The snaking procession passed the Democracy monument, the scene of a violent crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators in 1992, before moving on to where the Cabinet was holding its weekly meeting in Government House.

There they stopped and listened to a series of speeches, in which their leaders encouraged them to stage a sit-in of non-violent protest.

"We will stay here all day and all night if we have to," said Mr Chamlong, to a loud cheer. "We'll stay here as long as it takes," added Mr Sondi.

Peaceful march

The government had warned of possible violence ahead of Tuesday's march, but there was little evidence of any troublemakers.

There was a heavy police presence, but the officers with riot gear stood idle as the chanting crowd came past.

In fact there are not many rallies in the world where people would politely wait for traffic and stand respectfully as the national anthem was played.

At one stage, some protesters tried to tear down a pro-Thaksin banner pinned to the wall of Government House, but marshals in the crowd quickly discouraged them.

With the protesters planning on camping out at Government House and Mr Thaksin showing no signs of backing down, the people of Bangkok are holding their breath hoping this ongoing dispute can have a peaceful conclusion.


SEE ALSO:
Thai marchers mass at PM's office
14 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Rallies keep pressure on Thai PM
07 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Thailand rally
03 Mar 06 |  In Pictures
Thai PM defiant as crisis mounts
01 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Thai PM gambles on surprise poll
25 Feb 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Thai leader considers referendum
11 Feb 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Minister quits over Thaksin deal
03 Feb 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Thai PM defends mobile firm sale
01 Feb 06 |  Asia-Pacific


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