Thai protests turn bloody

Protesters spilled their own blood
at the gates of Thailand’s government headquarters in a colourful act of
political theatre designed to propel their fugitive hero back to power.

Thousands of “Red Shirts”
loyal to deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra queued up during the day to donate
blood in makeshift tents, where it was poured from syringes into five-litre
water bottles for the bizarre spectacle.

Red leaders said they had collected
300 litres of blood, far short of their aim of 1,000 litres, most of which they
poured at the Government House gates in the late afternoon to press their
demand for snap elections

They later took some of the blood
to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Democrat party offices for a second
protest, where a Hindu priest began the symbolic spilling by invoking a curse
against the government.

The demonstrators said they would
march to Abhisit’s residence in central Bangkok on Wednesday morning as they
step up their campaign, though the premier will not be there.

The bloody show was the latest part
of a pro-Thaksin demonstration which has drawn up to 100,000 protesters to the
streets of Bangkok since the weekend, according to police, watched over by
50,000 security forces personnel.

The Hindu priest, wearing a
traditional white outfit and with bare feet, knelt down in the blood to wipe
his hands in it, before raising them aloft. Others then joined in, creating
pools of blood at the steps of the offices.

“This blood is to show our
commitment in calling for democracy. This is an important curse ritual,”
said Red leader Nattawut The Red Shirts, whose numbers appeared to be dwindling
on Wednesday, held the blood bottles in the air triumphantly as they rode on
trucks followed by thousands of supporters and monitored by riot police.

They are protesting against the
perceived elitism and illegitimacy of the Abhisit government, which came to
power via a December 2008 parliamentary vote after a controversial court ruling
ousted Thaksin’s allies.

The premier rejected the crowd’s
demands to dissolve parliament and call elections, and on Tuesday he again
stood firm against their calls.

“A decision cannot be made
between protesters and the government, because it is related to the whole
country,” he said on television from the barracks.

WORLDthaiprotestSTORY

Supporters of fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Red Shirt splash blood on the ground in front of the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday.
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