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
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
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
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
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.