Page last updated at 09:19 GMT, Friday, 20 June 2008 10:19 UK

Protesters march in Thai capital


Protests in Thai capital

Several thousand protesters have converged on government offices in the Thai capital Bangkok to demand that the government step down.

Police lined the streets as crowds led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) marched in Bangkok.

The PAD, mostly made up of middle-class Bangkok residents, say the government is a proxy for Thaksin Shinawatra, who the military ousted in a 2006 coup.

The group has been protesting in Bangkok since late May.

It led the massive anti-Thaksin street protests that preceded the 2006 coup, but the demonstrations this time have so far remained small.

Deep divisions

Ahead of the protests, police closed down the area around Government House.

Schools and offices nearby were ordered to shut. Thousands of police were deployed and barriers set up.

An anti-government protester in Bangkok on 19 June 2008

The protest leaders had promised 100,000 people would join their movement to oust the government.

In the end, only a fraction of that number showed up, according to the BBC's correspondent in Bangkok, Jonathan Head.

But their lack of mass support belies the serious threat they still pose to the four-month-old government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, our correspondent adds.

His People Power Party - made up of Mr Thaksin's allies - won the elections in December 2007 that returned Thailand to democracy.

But the deep divisions that contributed to the military coup remain.

Mr Thaksin, a telecommunications billionaire, is banned from politics, but he still enjoys strong support in rural areas.

He is, however, deeply disliked by Bangkok's traditional elite, who do not want him to make a political comeback.

His opponents are also angry at the new government's recent move to amend the military-backed constitution - a move they say will give obvious benefits to the People Power Party and give Mr Thaksin added protection.

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