Thai protesters take over shopping district in Bangkok (Lead)April 3rd, 2010 - 5:00 pm ICT by IANS
Bangkok, April 3 (DPA) Tens of thousands of Thai protesters took control of one of Bangkok’s poshest shopping districts Saturday to push the government to dissolve parliament and hold new elections.
The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), also called the red shirts for their favoured colour of apparel, blocked off Ratchaprasong Road, a popular shopping area and hub for luxury hotels in Bangkok, in an effort to win over more supporters in the capital.
“We are gathering here in order to get the Bangkok people to join us,” UDD co-leader Weng Tojirakarn said. “This demonstration will show the government that not just the rural people but the urban Bangkok people support us.”
By mid-day, more than 50,000 red shirts had gathered at Ratchaprasong to listen to speeches by their leaders.
“I like the red shirts because they speak the truth about Thailand’s political situation,” said Fon, a Bangkok college student who was attending the protest.
The UDD has been holding demonstrations in Bangkok since March 12 and has given Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva until April 12 to dissolve parliament.
They accused Abhisit of being a puppet of the “ammat,” or bureaucratic elite, while painting themselves as the champions of the poor and downtrodden, fighting to build a more equitable Thai society.
Besides staging a protest at Ratchaprasong, a “red convoy” of 500 vehicles was driven to Vibhavadi Rangsit Road to stage a protest outside the NBT television station, a government-run TV channel that the red shirts accused of biased reporting on their
The UDD has promised to hold more protests in Bangkok Sunday.
“Tomorrow will be the decisive victory,” UDD leader Jatupron Promphan told a gathering of tens of thousands of red shirts Saturday at Phan Fa Bridge in the old part of Bangkok, which has been the gathering point for the protesters.
Efforts to end the conflict via negotiations between Abhisit and the red shirt leaders have failed. While Abhisit has vowed to dissolve parliament within nine months, the UDD has insisted that he do so by April 12.
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