BANGKOK, April 5 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), or red shirts, on Saturday started a three-day mass rally to show support for the caretaker government.
Tens of thousands of supporters have been gathering at the rally site on Utthayan Road which connects Nakhon Pathom province and the capital Bangkok. UDD leaders have expected 500,000-700,000 people nationwide to show up.
No incidents of violence have been reported as yet. Former UDD chairperson Thida Thavornseth said the rally would be held in a peaceful manner with no use of weapons.
There could be an even bigger and prolonged red-shirt rally after the Songkran festival, also known as the Thai New Year, which will be held from April 13 to 15 this year, according to UDD leader Jatuporn Promphan.
UDD leaders have depicted the Saturday rally as a signal of support for the caretaker cabinet and of protest against independent agencies that are now cornering caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The rally was called soon after the Constitutional Court on March 21 annulled the Feb. 2 general election.
The court has recently accepted for consideration a petition against Yingluck for allegedly violating the constitution for ordering the transfer of a government official in 2011. The transfer was earlier ruled unlawful by the Supreme Administrative Court.
Should the court rule against Yingluck, she and her entire cabinet will have to step down.
In addition, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is investigating into Yingluck's alleged dereliction of duty in the controversial rice-pledging scheme.
If indicted and found guilty, Yingluck could face removal from office and a five-year ban from politics.
The government-run Centre for Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) has deployed more than 3,000 police officers and soldiers to provide security at the rally site.
Moreover, as demanded by the CAPO, commander of the First Army Division Apirat Kongsompong has dispatched three companies of troops to help maintain security during the rally. Apirat also visited the rally site in person on Saturday to monitor the situation.
Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said Saturday that he expected no violence to take place at the rally site.
Anti-government protesters also staged their own rally on Saturday at the Lumpini Park in downtown Bangkok, a long way from the site of red shirts.
Surapong, also chief advisor of the CAPO, said he had instructed tightened security to prevent both rallies from being attacked by any third party.
In the morning, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban met with co- leaders from all across the country to map out their next moves.
After the meeting, Suthep called on protesters to prepare for a "final battle" that he said would break out after Yingluck was removed from office, either by the Constitutional Court or NACC.
Suthep added that protesters had agreed to open all government offices, except the Government House and the Interior Ministry, on April 8.
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