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Page last updated at 17:03 GMT, Saturday, 3 April 2010 18:03 UK

Thai anti-government protesters shut central Bangkok

Anti-government protesters in Bangkok, 3 April 2010
Anti-government protesters have been rallying for weeks

Tens of thousands of Thai protesters have occupied central Bangkok in their latest push to topple the government.

Crowds defied warnings to leave or face arrest and settled in for the night. The government says the rally is illegal and is negotiating with them.

The anti-government protesters, known as the red-shirts, are calling on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve parliament and hold early elections.

The red-shirted demonstrators have been holding regular protests for weeks.

'Peaceful'

Saturday's demonstrations saw central roads in the capital blocked, traffic halted and at least two of Thailand's biggest shopping malls forced to close.

The BBC's Rachel Harvey in Bangkok says there is no sign of protesters dispersing. She says there is also no sign of security forces and the atmosphere is still good-natured and peaceful.

Mr Vejjajiva has said he will hold elections by the end of the year - an offer the protesters have rejected.

There have already been two unsuccessful rounds of talks to resolve the crisis.

On Friday business leaders, academics, and people from the tourism industry turned out wearing pink shirts to call for an end to the crisis and show their continuing support for the government.

They numbered several thousand but did not match the tens of thousands that have attended the red-shirt rallies.

The red-shirted protesters are mostly supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, an exiled former telecoms tycoon who was ousted in a coup in 2006.

Many are from rural areas, and they have portrayed themselves as fighting for democracy.

They say that Mr Vejjajiva's offer of holding elections a year early is not enough, and that they are only willing to hold more talks if the prime minister brings forward his timetable.



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