Page last updated at 15:37 GMT, Sunday, 28 December 2008

Thousands join pro-Thaksin rally

Pro-Thaksin protestors at Sanam Luang, near the royal palace in Bangkok
The protesters vowed to continue until new elections are held.

Thousands of supporters of Thailand's exiled former leader, Thaksin Shinawatra, have been demonstrating in Bangkok, calling for fresh elections.

The protesters, many clad in red, massed at a parade ground while others halted traffic outside parliament.

They say they want new PM Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve parliament as they believe he has no legitimacy.

A Thai court disbanded the previous government loyal to Mr Thaksin because of electoral fraud.

Today the fight is not only for Thaksin but also for justice and democracy
Former FM Noppadon Pattama
Police said more than 20,000 pro-Thaksin supporters had gathered, while organisers said the figure was 50,000.

More than 3,000 unarmed riot police were on duty, handing out leaflets urging peaceful protests.

A huge stage at the Sanam Luang parade ground near the royal palace was backed with a red banner saying "No confidence in Abhisit Vejjajiva", while protesters waved signs saying "We Love Thaksin".

Organisers said they would move to parliament where Mr Abhisit is due to give his maiden policy speech in the next few days.

An advance guard of several hundred had already blocked a key road outside the legislature.

"Today the fight is not only for Thaksin but also for justice and democracy," former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama told the crowd at Sanam Luang.

Airport occupied

Correspondents say the latest demonstrations bring Thai politics full circle after a year of turmoil, with Thaksin loyalists now using the same tactics that helped their rivals to bring down a government led by Mr Thaksin's allies this month.

Earlier this week Thailand's king swore in Mr Abhisit's new cabinet, following his selection as prime minister by parliament last month.

His new foreign minister, Kasit Piromya, was an open supporter of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) movement which held mass demonstrations against the previous pro-Thaksin adminstration, led by Somchai Wongsawat.

The PAD accused Mr Somchai of being a proxy for Mr Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in 2006, and their demonstrations paralysed parts of Bangkok for months.

It culminated in a week-long occupation of Bangkok's main international airport last month, which left thousands of foreign tourists stranded.

The PAD called off its action after the Constitutional Court found Mr Somchai's party guilty of fraud during the last election a year ago, forcing the governing coalition from power.

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