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Thailand pro-Thaksin rallies end

Pro-Thaksin protesters, 25/02
Thousands joined the protests, but numbers waned as the week went on

Thousands of supporters of ousted Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra have quit their protest camp outside parliament, but say their fight is not over.

About 10,000 of his supporters joined protests to demand the government resign but numbers dwindled by the day.

The red-shirted demonstrators say current ministers are military stooges.

Mr Thaksin, who is thought to be living Hong Kong, plans to speak to the media there next week - despite Thai threats to have him extradited.

The Bangkok Post newspaper quoted Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as saying he planned to ask China to extradite Mr Thaksin.

But analysts in Hong Kong have pointed out that Hong Kong's legal system is separate to that of China, and Hong Kong does not have an extradition treaty with Thailand.

In his absence, a Thai court sentenced Mr Thaksin to two years in jail for corruption. He has addressed rallies by video links but rarely makes public appearances.

Long-running unrest

The protesters - calling themselves the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) - say Mr Abhisit has no right to rule the country and are calling for new elections.

Mr Abhisit came to power after a legal ruling barred many Thaksin supporters from parliament.

"On behalf of democracy-loving people, the 'red shirts' have the legitimacy to intensify our fight against disguised dictatorship in order to regain democracy," protest leader Veera Musikapong told the crowds.

"But it is useless to rally at Government House," he said. "To achieve our goal we will carry on our fight in both urban and rural areas, outside and inside parliament."

The country has been wracked by political instability since Mr Thaksin was ousted in a coup in 2006.

After a year of military rule, a general election was held which returned a pro-Thaksin government.

But that government was effectively paralysed by a long-running campaign by thousands of anti-Thaksin demonstrators who took to the streets clad in yellow shirts.

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