Thailand's 'red shirt' protesters canceled a march Monday as the Army fanned out to block them. But they vowed to continue their demonstration, now at five weeks, until Prime Minsiter Abhisit steps down and calls elections.
The added pressure came as an opposing “yellow shirt” group threatened a massive counterdemonstration next week if the protests continued.
Protest leaders canceled their march but vowed to continue their disruptive campaign to force Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve parliament and hold elections.
The standoff erupted into violence on April 10 that left at least 25 people dead and several hundred injured at a rally site that has since been abandoned in favor of a downtown shopping area.
The soldiers who took up positions near the consolidated rally site were the first major deployment since the April 10 bloodshed, which Mr. Abhisit blamed on “terrorists” among the red-shirted protesters. But it’s unclear if it marks the start of a fresh crackdown or a defensive crouch against the ebullient Red shirts.
A day earlier, the yellow shirts threatened to counterprotest in seven days if the government failed to end the protests. The royalist People’s Alliance for Democracy, which paralyzed the capital during marathon 2008 protests that included airport seizures, sees the red shirts as a front for fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The renewed tensions snapped a vacation cool-off in Bangkok, which last week celebrated Thailand’s New Year. Monday was the first day back to work for office workers on Silom Road, a strip of banks, bars, and corporate offices, who found armed troops guarding the street.