Thai PM says no plans to crack down on Thaksin supporters

BANGKOK, March 14, 2010 (AFP) - Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Sunday that he had no intention of using force against the tens of thousands of anti-government protesters rallying in Bangkok.

A 50,000-strong security force has been sent out under a strict security law to keep order over the supporters of deposed Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, amid fears that some of them could turn violent.

Riot policemen stand guard outside Government House as unseen supporters of deposed Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra gather for a mass rally in downtown Bangkok on March 14, 2010. AFP photo

But Abhisit said in his weekly television broadcast that the situation was so far "peaceful and orderly" with both sides co-operating.

"I want to reassure people that the government has no plans to crack down on protesters. The government will not benefit from doing that," Abhisit said.

The anti-government "Red Shirt" protesters accuse Abhisit's administration of being elitist and undemocratic and have called for it to step down and call fresh elections.

But Abhisit continued to stand firm on Sunday, saying: "I have my right to complete my term".

Thousands of Red Shirts, mainly from the rural north, continued to stream into the capital by bus, taxi, pick-up truck and boat, ahead of the official start to the rally at midday (0500 GMT) Sunday.

They have dubbed it their "million man march", although a spokesman for the police operations centre told AFP mid-morning that no more than 60,000 had gathered at the main rally site since they began arriving on Friday.

Abhisit said he would only invoke emergency rule, which would hand over more power to the military, under "certain criteria and circumstances".

The Internal Security Act has already been imposed, allowing authorities to set up checkpoints, impose curfews and limit movements and the prime minister has warned the public not to be complacent about the potential for violence.

He cancelled his own weekend trip to Australia because of the rally, which comes two weeks after Thailand's top court confiscated 1.4 billion dollars of Thaksin's assets, frozen since he was deposed in a coup in 2006.

Thaksin loyalists have held a number of protests since Abhisit came to power in 2008 after a court decision removed Thaksin's allies from government, following an airport blockade by the Thaksin-hating "Yellow Shirts".

Source: AFP

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