nti-government "Red Shirt" protesters defied an ongoing state of emergency in Thailand's capital yesterday to stage their first major mobilization since their street demonstrations were ended by a deadly military crackdown in May.
The activities marked the fourth anniversary of a 2006 military coup that toppled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The Red Shirts include many Thaksin supporters as well as activists opposed to the military's interference in politics.
Thousands of people gathered Sunday at Bangkok's Rajprasong intersection, a glitzy shopping district that was occupied by the group from April to May this year. The crowd, exuberant but peaceful, spilled into the street and snarled traffic, while hundreds of police stood by in case of trouble.
A smaller crowd turned out at Democracy Monument, a traditional gathering point for demonstrations which was also the site of a clash between the Red Shirts and soldiers in April.
Another large demonstration was scheduled for later Sunday in the northern city of Chiang Mai, Thaksin's hometown and one of his political strongholds.
The Red Shirt protests earlier this year, which demanded that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva call early elections, deteriorated into violence that turned many parts of Bangkok into a virtual war zone, leaving about 90 people dead and more than 1,400 hurt, mostly demonstrators.
When troops moved in with live ammunition to clear the demonstrators on May 19, hardcore protesters set fire to almost three dozen buildings around Bangkok, including the country's biggest luxury shopping mall and the stock exchange.