About 30,000 demonstrators gathered around the Democracy Monument in Bangkok's central government district on Sunday. Protesters demanded justice in the biggest opposition rally since last year's bloody clashes.
Thai Red Shirts demand elections and for PM Abhisit Vejjajiva to step down
Thousands of red-shirted, anti-government protesters gathered on
Sunday in Bangkok’s old quarter to mark the one year anniversary of violent clashes with the military. 26 people had died on April 10, 2010 when mass demonstrations demanding elections in Thailand had turned violent. The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (also known as the Red Shirts) had been showing support for ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra by occupying several business districts for months.
Placards with slogans reading "red never dies", among others, were held up by red-shirted demonstrators late on Sunday. Some carried portraits of Thaksin Shinawatra, others were holding up pictures of incumbent PM Abhisit Vejjajiva with the word "murderer" written across it.
The protesters demand justice for the victims killed during the Bangkok unrest
"There is no room for reconciliation," Jatuporn Prompan, a prominent leader of the redshirts, shouted into the crowd. "The people who died and all who are on their side will never make peace with last year’s murderers!" Relatives of some of the dead and wounded have filed civil lawsuits against three state agencies.
The Red Shirts say the military is responsible for the deaths of almost 100 people during the mass demonstration last year. The government still denies the accusations saying the soldiers used live fire only in self defense. On 10 April 2010, five soldiers and 21 civilians had been killed, including Reuters television cameraman Hiro Muramoto. It is still not clear who opened fire when the military clashed with the pro-Thaksin demonstrators.
After days of peaceful demonstrations the protests turned violent in Bangkok
Before this year’s commemoration there had been some gestures of reconciliation. Leaders of the opposition had met up with high ranking military officers to prevent history from repeating itself. In April and May of last year a total 91 people had died and nearly 2,000 had been injured in the political violence.
Sunday night’s demonstration to commemorate the victims went peacefully; tears flowed when pictures of the dead were shown. But the highlight of the peaceful protests was a video message by fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been living abroad since he was ousted from Thailand in 2006 for abuse of power.
Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in 2006, still has many supporters in Thailand
Thaksin could emerge as a key figure if the Puea Thai Party wins this year’s election. The opposition party, who is seen by many as a Thaksin proxy, has widespread support, particularly in the populous north and northeast regions. In an interview with Wall Street Journal last week Thaksin said that he will try to influence the economic policies in Thailand if the Puea Thai Party emerges as winner in the upcoming election.
PM Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Sunday he would go ahead with plans to dissolve the lower house of parliament in early May, which under current rules would mandate a general election in July.
Author: Ziphora Robina (Reuters,dpae)
Editor: Sarah Berning