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PAD-led protesters march to Bangkok's business center
www.chinaview.cn 2006-03-29 21:36:38

    BANGKOK, March 29 (Xinhua) -- The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) began its march from their assembly point at the National Stadium to a new rally center in front of the Siam Paragon shopping mall Wednesday afternoon as suspicions about the demonstration's validity burst out.

    About 100,000 protesters took part in the PAD march led by Maj.Gen.Chamlong Srimuang, unionist Somsak Kosaisuk and social activist Pipob Thongchai. The protest leaders talked to the crowd from a six-wheel truck leading the stream of protesters, demanding caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra step down.

    They shouted for Thaksin's resignation, appealed for the king to appoint an interim government with a new prime minister, and called on the people to boycott the April 2 snap election.

    But a young man standing on a nearby overbridge was silently holding a board with the slogans of "Cherish your vote right! Cherish the nation's democracy! End the disturbance! End the ceaseless rallies!" on it.

    He told Xinhua that he was sick of this type of protest which was disturbing the politics, the economics and the daily life.

    The rally sealed off the Rama I Road before the three shopping centers and traffic around the area fell into deadlock. A 15,000 strong police force was on hand to maintain order. Police urged commuters to avoid traveling to the protest site.

    Royal Thai Police Spokesman Archirawit Suphanaphesat said up to15,000 police officers were on hand to be stationed at the site. They were under order to be gentle in crowd-control and they were not armed, except with radio communications devices and mobile phones.

    "We will be patient and will not use force to disperse the demonstration," he said.

    Siam Paragon, the most luxury shopping center of Thailand, and another two, Siam Center and Siam Discovery, are seen as the magnet for Bangkok's young Thai media-culture crowd. On Tuesday, all the three decided to close their businesses during the PAD's two-day rally, saying the closure could cause them a daily loss ofaround 300 million baht (7.5 million U.S. dollars).

    Chamlong, the former Bangkok's governor, said he moved the demonstration site to Siam Paragon because he was "compelled to present the truth to youth" why PAD demanded Thaksin's resignation.He stressed that there were no grounds for police to take legal action against the demonstrators.

    But the caretaker premier Thaksin, who is on a two-day visit tothe country's northern province of Chiang Mai, his northern hometown, conceded that he was concerned over the anti-government movement that it could add more traffic woes to the capital's prime business area and violate other people's rights.

    The caretaker prime minister said although the government wouldnot resort to violent means and would exercise restraint to the utmost, the demonstrators must respect the law.

    "Law enforcement officers will take action if they violate the law," he warned. "Legal means may be necessary to maintain order in the society."

    Thaksin said he wanted the situation to return to normal as theApril 2 snap election was approaching. He also warned police officers not to be trapped by any possible instigating ploy which could lead to violence affecting the forthcoming general election.

    Thaksin instructed agencies concerned to continue to raise public awareness and launch campaigns to invite eligible voters across the nation to exercise their rights in the early poll.

    Meanwhile, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Vanasatidya,who oversees national security, said he would closely monitor the anti-government movement. He reiterated that the caretaker government had no plan to use violent means or declare a state of emergency as long as the situation was under control.

    Responding to criticism that by moving the demonstration to thevery heart of the city was damaging the economy, PAD co-ordinator Suriyasai Katasila urged the people to see through it that Thaksin' s corrupt and untransparent governance had done much more severedamage to the Thai economy.

    Late Wednesday, Thaksin abruptly changed his schedule to returnfrom Chiang Mai to Bangkok on Wednesday evening, instead of Thursday morning. He also canceled his appearance on a television current affairs program upon advice from the Election Commission that that could breach electoral law. Enditem     

Editor: Yan Zhonghua
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