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Page last updated at 15:42 GMT, Thursday, 18 March 2010

Thai 'red shirt' leaders say Bangkok protests to go on

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Protests continue on streets of Bangkok amid tight security

Anti-government demonstrators in Thailand say they will stay on the streets of Bangkok indefinitely to continue their push for new elections.

Their numbers have dwindled after four days of rallies - of more than 100,000 who started the protest, police said about 40,000 remained.

Protest leaders have promised nightly entertainment shows and further rallies in the days to come.

Both the government and the protesters have kept the rallies peaceful.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, protesters performed ritual blood-throwing events at Government House, the headquarters of the ruling Democrat Party, and the home of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva.

On Thursday they stayed in their camp around Government House - but said that they would come back out on to the streets at the weekend.

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The red-shirt protesters say Mr Abhisit's government is illegitimate and want him to step down.

In the battle for Thailand's political soul, symbolism is probably the most important weapon

He has refused to do so, and has been staying at a military base while protesters remain encamped around Government House.

Speaking on television, Mr Abhisit said he was open to dialogue.

"If the demonstration is still within the law the government does not object to holding negotiations" with protesters, he said.

The reds, meanwhile, said they were staying put and would seek to bolster their numbers at the weekend.

"We will have pick-up trucks and motorcycles going out all over Bangkok to urge people who agree with us that this government is illegitimate to come out," said one leader, Nattawut Saikua.

PROTEST TIMELINE
2006: Yellow-shirts launch street protests to oust PM Thaksin Shinawatra
Sept 2006: Thaksin ousted in military coup
Dec 2007: Thaksin allies win first post-coup elections
Sept 2008: Yellow-shirts occupy Bangkok government buildings, clash with pro-Thaksin red-shirts
Nov 2008: Yellow-shirts occupy Bangkok's airports, forcing cancellation of hundreds of flights
Dec 2008: Thaksin-allied government falls, rival Abhisit Vejjajiva forms government
Apr 2009: Red-shirts storm Asean summit, clashes erupt in Bangkok
Mar 2010: Red-shirts launch protest aimed at bringing government down

Many people have travelled a long way from rural provinces and have jobs and businesses to return to.

But for those remaining in Bangkok, leaders are planning mass cultural shows and political meetings.

On Wednesday, alongside the blood donation and blood-spillings, protesters delivered a letter to the British embassy saying they wanted to counter false media reports about the protests.

They went on to picket the US embassy, accusing US intelligence of bugging former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The protesters say the present government was installed illegally after Mr Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006, and two subsequent governments of his allies were deposed by court action.

Montenegrin police confirmed on Wednesday that Mr Thaksin was in Montenegro, having travelled there on 13 March from Dubai where he has been living. A Thai court gave him a prison sentence in absentia for corruption.


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