Protesters swarm shopping district

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tens of thousands of red-shirt protesters blocked a major intersection in the capital's business centre on Saturday, paralysing traffic and closing shopping malls, as they continued their campaign to force Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to immediately dissolve the House of Representatives.

Leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) announced their mobile rally plan in the morning at Phan Fa Bridge, saying they would muster at two locations -- Ratchaprasong intersection and Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road.

The first group of protesters was dispatched to set up a stage at the intersection. A few hours later, thousands of red-shirts converged on the Ratchaprasong area, bringing business and traffic to a halt.

Police from Lumpini station tried to negotiate with the protesters, asking them to open one lane for traffic but they refused. Traffic around the intersection was totally blocked before noon.

Large shopping malls in the area closed, including Central World, Gaysorn Plaza, Big C, Siam Centre and Siam Discovery.

Pol Maj Gen Piya Utayo, spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Bureau, said police have received reports that the protesters would stay overnight at the Ratchaprasong intersection.

Police would continue to negotiate with the protesters and ask them to withdraw from the area because there are schools and hospitals in the vicinity.

Red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan said this rally coud last for three days. A House dissolution is the least the government could give the protesters, he said, adding that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuabn had no right to try to negotiate with them to reduce the dissolution timeframe to eight months.

"We cannot let Abhisit rule the country any longer," he told the crowd. "The government has no legitimacy to rule."

The Centre for Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) estimated there were 60,000 people taking part in the red-shirt protest in the capital on Saturday, spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd said.

He urged the protesters to listen to police and open routes for traffic and pedestrians.

Col Sansern said CAPO had no plan to crackdown on protesters, provided they remain within the law.

In the morning, a group of people who called themselves "Silent Power" gathered at Rama IX Park in Prawet to voice their opposition to the continuing protest.

They distributed stickers saying, "End the protest. We want a peaceful life." Many of them wore pink shirts and waved Thai flags.

They marched from the park to Seri Centre shopping mall and back to the park. They dispersed afterwards.

Authorities have deployed 50,000 soldiers, police and security personnel in the city to maintain law and order under the provisions of the Internal Security Act.

This photo gallery shows red-shirt protesters at Ratchaprasong intersection on Saturday.


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