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Sea of protesters demand new elections in Thailand

BANGKOK, Thailand — As many as 100,000 people demonstrated peacefully against Thailand's government at a partylike rally Sunday, but the capital was being kept on edge by their threat to continue protesting until Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva calls new elections.

Loud pop music and rural delicacies such as spicy papaya salad competed with fiery rhetoric for the attention of the crowd, many of whom had come from provinces in the countryside.

The so-called Red Shirts — followers of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and their allies — rallied along a boulevard that is a traditional venue for political protests.

The protesters, formally grouped as the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, have been flexible in their tactics and deadlines, but are demanding Vejjajiva dissolve Parliament and call new elections, which they think will restore their political allies to power.

They believe he took office illegitimately with the connivance of the military and other parts of the traditional ruling class who were alarmed by Shinawatra's popularity, particularly among the poor. Shinawatra, who became prime minister in 2001 and whose party easily won two elections, was ousted by a 2006 military coup for alleged corruption and abuse of power.

The Red Shirts set a deadline of noon today for Vejjajiva to heed their call, or face disruptive street protests. Vejjajiva indicated Sunday that for now, he had no plans to dissolve Parliament.

Sea of protesters demand new elections in Thailand 03/14/10 [Last modified: Sunday, March 14, 2010 11:53pm]
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