Anti-government protestors march on Parliament in Thailand

November 24th, 2008 - 8:23 am ICT by IANS  

Bangkok, Nov 24 (DPA) Tens-of-thousands of anti-government protestors, some of them armed with sticks, marched on Parliament in Thailand Monday.Sondhi Limthongkul, a senior leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) that has been leading an anti-government campaign in Bangkok since May, launched the march from Government House to Parliament at 6:00 a.m. (2300 GMT Sunday).

“Let’s go to Parliament, and then we will see what else we will do,” said Sondhi. The PAD has vowed to bring the government down by Wednesday, after holding street protests and demonstrations since May this year.

The PAD, a loose coalition of groups fanatically opposed to the return to power of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, has occupied Government House - the seat of the executive body - since Aug 26, forcing the government to work out of a temporary office at Don Mueang Airport, the capital’s old international airport.

They are laying siege to Parliament Monday to allegedly prevent the start of an amendment process to the constitution that might pave the way for a return to power by Thaksin, although no such legislation was on the agenda.

Thaksin, a former billionaire telecommunications tycoon turned politician, was prime minister from 2001 to 2006. Through populist policies he won a mass following among the rural and urban poor, but his dictatorial style and self-serving deals eventually turned the Bangkok middle classes and political elite against him.

Many of his former political allies, such as Sondhi and Chamlong Srimuang, are now heading the PAD.

The PAD has been galvanized to go for broke by increasing attacks on their followers camped out at Govenment House, which have claimed at least one life, and by Thaksin’s announcement last week that he was going to return to politics.

Thaksin is currently living in self-exile, a fugitive from the law after being sentenced to two years in jail on abuse-of-power charges.

But he continues to control the government through his money and connections, including Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, who is his brother-in-law.

The last time the PAD marched on Parliament Oct 7, it ended in bloodshed. Police fired tear-gas canisters on the protestors, injuring many of them and sparking a melee in which two died and about 400 people were injured.

Police have vowed to avoid a similar use of violence Monday.

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