Thai opposition marches to release jailed leaders

Tens of thousands marched in Thailand's capital to demand the release of the movement's leaders.

Thai opposition marches to release jailed leaders

Tens of thousands of "red shirt" demonstrators marched in Thailand's capital on Sunday to demand the release of the movement's leaders in their first rally since the lifting of an eight-month state of emergency last month.

The protest by about 30,000 people aimed to pressure the government to end what the red shirts say are unlawful detentions and suppression of dissent in the wake of deadly clashes between troops and demonstrators last year.

The latest request for bail for the leaders, charged with "terrorism", was denied on Tuesday and the march from two symbolic locations where 91 people were killed and more than 1,800 wounded showed the movement's strength had yet to wane.

The mostly rural and urban working-class protesters gathered at Democracy Monument in Bangkok's old quarter before moving on foot and on motorcycles toward a downtown shopping district which they had occupied for seven weeks last April and May.

Troops had forcibly dispersed the demonstrators on May 19, prompting a spree of arson attacks and rioting that marked the country's worst violence in decades.

More than 1,000 police were deployed to maintain security at Sunday's rally.

The protesters planned to light candles and release thousands of balloons in memory of those killed during the clashes. The "red shirts" blame the government and the army for the deaths, which they say have not been properly investigated.

The rally took place at the Ratchaprasong intersection outside Southeast Asia's second-biggest shopping mall, Central World.

An immediate election was their key demand during last year's rallies, but the movement's leaders rejected a government offer of a November 2010 poll, saying it was not soon enough.

They are hopeful the opposition Puea Thai party will win most votes in the election and return a government favourable to the ousted, twice-elected former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, the group's exiled figurehead.

Abhisit has hinted at May or June as possible period to call elections but others within his ruling Democrat party have held back on their decision to set a date for the polls.


Agencies

Last Mod: 09 Ocak 2011, 15:56
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