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Page last updated at 07:48 GMT, Saturday, 27 March 2010

Thailand's red shirts confront army in Bangkok

Protesters in front on troops (27/03/10)
The red shirts want the prime minister to resign

Tens of thousands of Thailand's red-shirted protesters have gathered in front of army positions in Bangkok to demand fresh elections.

The anti-government protesters have massed at eight points in the centre of the city.

Troops have reportedly abandoned some of their positions after threats to tear down barbed-wire barricades.

The government has extended special security legislation and brought in extra troops to man check-points.

"We will meet with the military and police in a spirit of friendship, and talk with them to convince them to return to their barracks, and invite them to join us in calling for democracy," said protest leader Veera Musikapong ahead of the rally, according to the AFP news agency.

But Reuters news agency reports that the rhetoric became more confrontational, prompting the army withdrawal.

"This is the breaking point," another leader, Nattawut Saikua, shouted to the crowd.

A protester has her head shaved in Bangkok on 25 March 2010
Some protesters have offered both blood and hair to their cause

"If we lose, we will probably go to jail, if we win, then we get a democracy back," he said.

Anti-government protesters have mounted a series of targeted demonstrations in the past two weeks, ranging from ritualistic blood curses to head-shaving to noisy parades through the streets of the capital.

There has also been a series of unexplained explosions at buildings associated with the administration - the red shirts deny any responsibility.

The protesters, known as the red-shirts because of their distinctive clothing, are calling for the prime minister to resign.

The BBC's Rachel Harvey in Bangkok says the protesters are no nearer their stated goal of forcing fresh elections, but there is no sign of them giving up either.

The red-shirts are a loose coalition of pro-democracy activists, supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and former communists.



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