Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thaksin supporters call off Thai protest


BANGKOK, Nov 25 (AFP) - Thai supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra Wednesday called off rallies due to start this weekend after the fugitive former premier said the protests were too close to the king's birthday.

Thaksin -- who is living in exile following a 2006 coup -- urged the "Red Shirt" movement in a radio address late Tuesday to postpone the protests at least until after King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 82nd birthday on December 5.

The Red Shirts had previously announced plans to gather Saturday in Bangkok and stay on the streets until December 2, prompting the government to invoke a tough security law across the capital until mid-December.

"We Red Shirts want to express our loyalty to the king by postponing the rally indefinitely. We will meet to map out our stance after the middle of December," senior Red Shirt member Veera Musikapong told reporters.

"The Red Shirts consider that the length of the imposition of the Internal Security Act by the government, which covers the king's birthday celebrations, showed a lack of maturity."

Veera said it was up to the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to decide whether to cancel the security act, which is in force between November 28 and December 14.

King Bhumibol is held in near-religious respect by most Thais and issues involving the royal family are highly sensitive, especially with the monarch having been in hospital for more than two months.

The Red Shirts want Abhisit to quit and call fresh elections, saying that he came to power unfairly after allies of Thaksin were driven from government in December 2008 when rival "Yellow Shirts" blockaded Bangkok's airports.

In April Red Shirt protesters forced the cancellation of a major Asian summit in the coastal city of Pattaya and then rioted in Bangkok for two days, leaving two people dead.

Thaksin is living abroad, mainly in Dubai, to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption passed in absentia last year.

But he has stirred up a string of protests in the past year by videolink and telephone, and angered the Thai government this month by visiting neighbouring Cambodia in his new capacity as an economic adviser to Phnom Penh.

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