'Red shirts' rally marks Thai coup anniversary

'Red shirts' rally marks  Thai coup anniversary

Despite the presence of several thousand riot police and soldiers, about 10,000 “red shirts” rallied to demand the dissolution of parliament and the resignation of the most senior royal advisor, Prem Tinsulanonda, whom they accuse of masterminding the coup that toppled Thaksin.

The government enacted a tough security law on Tuesday that empowers the military to curb the movement of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), as the red shirts are formally known.

The red shirts, many from Thaksin’s rural strongholds, massed in stormy conditions at Bangkok’s Royal Plaza close to Prem’s residence. The demonstration was the fifth big show of support for the former telecoms tycoon since an army crackdown on the UDD in April. Despite living in exile after fleeing ahead of a two-year prison sentence for graft, Thaksin remains a major political stakeholder in Thailand because of his influence over the rural masses.

Thaksin was due to address the crowd in a phone-in later on Saturday. He is believed to be Dubai, where he has spent most of his time since skipping bail in Thailand more than a year ago.

Export credit and risk insurance agency, ONDD, this week downgraded its medium and long-term political risk rating for Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy because of continued uncertainty.

Separately, an unknown number of people were injured on Saturday in clashes between villagers and supporters of the anti-Thaksin People’s Alliance for Democracy  in northeastern Si Sa Ket province. Emergency had been declared in the province’s Kantharalak district.

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