Tens of thousands attend pro-government rally in Bangkok

November 1st, 2008 - 7:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangkok, Nov 1 (DPA) Tens of thousands of Thais gathered Saturday at a rally in Bangkok to demonstrate support for fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and opposition to the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD).An estimated 60,000 red T-shirt-clad people from Bangkok and various provinces filled the Rajamangala National Stadium to attend the much-anticipated “Truth Today” demonstration, the highlight of which promises to be a message from Thaksin, who faces a two-year jail term in Thailand on an abuse of power charge.

“I’m here because I love Thaksin and pity him as a victim of politics,” said Chai Wichit, 62, a farmer from Udorn Thani in northeast Thailand.

Chai said he and 3,000 other Thaksin fans had travelled by buses from Udorn Thani to attend the rally.

“Thaksin was the only Thai prime minister who gave to the poor,” said Pradit Paengsaen, 53, from Ubon Ratchathani, recalling Thaksin’s populist policies when he was prime minister between 2001 to 2006.

Thaksin was toppled by a coup Sep 19, 2006, accused of mass corruption, and on Oct 21 was sentenced to two years in jail for abuse of power, the first of many charges to stick against him.

He now lives in self-exile in London with his wife Pojaman, who faces a three-year jail sentence in Thailand on tax evasion charges.

Thaksin, currently in Hong Kong, was scheduled to deliver a message to the audience at 9.30 p.m. Saturday in a pre-recorded video, according to organisers of the event.

The event, organised by the “Truth Today” show and the so-called United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), comes at a time when Thailand’s government is extremely fragile.

Thailand’s Army Commander-in Chief General Anupong Paojinda has warned of a possible coup if there is any violence in Bangkok in coming weeks, in effect prohibiting a government crackdown on the anti-government PAD which seized Government House Aug 26 and has occupied it since.

Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin’s brother-in-law, has been the target of nearly daily protests led by the PAD, calling for his resignation and the dissolution of parliament.

Somchai has been sharply criticized by the military and a broad swathe of Thai society for allowing police to attack PAD-followers with teargas canisters Oct 7 after the anti-government movement had surrounded parliament in an effort to prevent the official launch of the new administration.

Two PAD followers died in the melee and 400 others were injured.

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