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Briefing: Why Thai protesters are taking to the streets again

Antigovernment activists plan to defy a tough security law to rally Saturday on the third anniversary of a military coup.

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Antigovernment protesters are gathering Saturday in Bangkok to mark the third anniversary of a military coup against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. At least 30,000 are likely to attend the rally, defying the use of a tough internal security law that allows troops to make arrests.

The protesters will wear red shirts and voice support for Mr. Thaksin, who is living in exile. In April, armed troops put down violent protests in Bangkok by the red shirts after they had disrupted a regional summit. Some of the leaders of the movement face criminal charges.

Last year saw rival yellow-shirted protesters occupy government buildings and two airports. That group has since formed a political party and is loosely aligned with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva, who took office last December after the courts dissolved a pro-Thaksin administration.

Since the coup, Thailand has been held hostage by its fractious politics, to the alarm of the US, a longtime ally. Its Army is also battling a growing Muslim-led insurgency in its southernmost provinces.

What do the protesters want and how much support do they have?

They have called for Mr. Abhisit to dissolve parliament and hold elections. More broadly, the leaders say they are fighting for social justice and accuse powerful elites in Bangkok of undermining democracy.

The red-shirt movement isn't well organized and relies heavily on Thaksin's popularity to galvanize supporters. But it has tapped into the anger among rural and working-class voters over the coup and subsequent events. A recent petition for a royal pardon for Thaksin got 3.5 million signatures.


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