Thai opposition willing to protest for a six months

Other News Materials 3 April 2009 02:53 (UTC +04:00)

Thailand's anti-government Red Shirt movement is ready for six months of countrywide protests to force a new election and defeat their critics, Jakrapob Penkair, a leader of political group loyal to fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said Thursday, according to dpa.

Jakrapob's group - the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship - is now focused on a creating a huge show of popular anger against an "illegitimate government" next Wednesday, he said.

The Red Shirts want to unseat the current government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and force from the political scene powerful old officials they claim were behind the 2006 coup that bright down Thaksin.

Thailand has been in almost constant political turmoil since the coup with the country polarized between self-styled royalists and the supporters of the former prime minister, who is in self-imposed exile.

"We can go on half a year, six months. Our system should be capable of rallying that long. Of course we would hope that the situation would be brought to a conclusion much earlier," he said, speaking behind the stage that now blocks the road in front of Government House, the Thai government's official seat.

The Red Shirt street rally began a week ago with other protests scattered around the north and the north-east of the country where Thaksin remains very popular thanks to his populist economic policies and reputation as a rich man who cares for the poor.

Abhisit will return from the G20 meeting in London on Friday, earlier than planned. Analysts say his Democrat Party's would most likely do very little in the hope the protests will blow over.

Most independent observers say the Red Shirts have shown Thaksin to be still popular with many Thais, but will find it hard to unseat a government supported by the powerful military establishment that, with an older elite, mostly distrusts Thaksin.