Page last updated at 08:19 GMT, Saturday, 20 March 2010

Thailand protesters stage rally through Bangkok

Red-shirt rally in Bangkok - 20 March 2010

Thousands of anti-government protesters in Thailand have boarded motorcycles and trucks for a mass rally in Bangkok in the latest stage of their campaign.

The "red-shirt" movement, many of them supporters of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, wants the government to step down and call new elections.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has admitted his country is divided, but has refused to step down.

The numbers of protesters are down since the rallies began last weekend.

But thousands of people dressed in red rode motorbikes or boarded cars and trucks to flood the streets of the Thai capital in a bid to boost support for their cause.

Blood protests

Many of the anti-government protesters are from rural areas of Thailand where Mr Thaksin remains popular.

The prime minister has offered to talk to the protest leaders, but only after their campaign in Bangkok is called off.

The end result might well be a new military coup that then the installs someone who is somewhat less objectionable to the red shirts

The red-shirt leaders say they will remain encamped in Bangkok but will scale back their protests in order, as they put it, to conserve energy and resources, reports the BBC's Rachel Harvey in Bangkok.

Earlier in the week, the protestors spattered their own blood outside the government headquarters and the prime minister's private residence.

The protesters have sought to distance themselves from Mr Thaksin, - who lives abroad having fled a two-year jail sentence for a conflict of interest case - painting themselves as fighters for democracy against entrenched elites.

They say Mr Abhisit came to power illegitimately in a parliamentary vote after a pro-Thaksin government was forced to step down.

Mr Thaksin was ousted as prime minister in a military coup in 2006.

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