Thailand turned up the legal heat on defiant red-shirted protesters loyal to fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra on Monday, filing a court order aimed at moving a weeks-long rally out of Bangkok's tourist hub. The court rejected the request.
AFP - Jubilant red-shirted Thai protesters vowed Monday to keep up their efforts to overthrow the government after a court declined to issue a legal order to evict them from Bangkok's tourist hub.
Tens of thousands of supporters of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra paralysed the capital's main shopping and luxury hotel district for a third day and also briefly stormed the offices of the election commission.
Loud cheers rang out among the Red Shirts after a Bangkok court dismissed the government's request for an injunction to force the protesters out of the tourist district, where they have halted traffic and caused stores to close.
They are demanding immediate elections, accusing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's government of being undemocratic because it took office in 2008 through a parliamentary vote after a court stripped Thaksin's allies of power.
"It's clear that Abhisit cannot do everything in Thailand," Reds leader Jatuporn Prompan told the cheering crowd.
"Our demonstration is constitutional and we will continue to press for House dissolution to return power to people," he said.
But it was not a clear-cut victory for the protesters because the court also said that the government already had power to evict the Reds under a tough emergency security law, so a legal injunction was not necessary.
The government has already announced a ban of the mass rally in the tourist heartland but had sought the backing of the judiciary to evict the protesters.
The authorities said they would continue to press the Reds -- mostly from the country's rural north -- to leave the area, but added they wanted a peaceful end to the standoff.
"The government will explain to protesters about the authority under (the security law) but so far the government has no plan to use force to disperse the demonstrators," said government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said.
The military has mounted a heavy security response involving 50,000 personnel at its height to try to contain the protests.
Tensions grew with an early-hours explosion outside a Bangkok massage parlour owned by the family of the commerce minister, and a grenade fired into a supermarket parking lot in northern Chiang Mai city. Nobody was injured.
Elsewhere an unexploded hand grenade was found outside the government-run National Broadcasting Service of Thailand, in the latest unexplained attacks since the rolling demonstrations began in mid-March by Thaksin's supporters.
The government wants to avoid a repeat of last April's clashes with Red Shirts that left two people dead, six months after riot police took on the rival Yellow Shirts in bloody scenes outside parliament.
Business chiefs have warned the action could inflict heavy losses on tourism and other industries.
But the stock exchange said it would operate as usual Monday, urging investors to "consider the credibility of news sources" on the protests.
Despite protesters blocking Bangkok's commercial district for a third day, the Thai market rose 0.87 percent on Monday to close at 808.15.
Thai society is split between the Reds, who accuse Abhisit's government of being elitist and army-backed, and the Yellow Shirts, supporters of the country's establishment who accuse Thaksin of gross corruption.
Thaksin, a billionaire former telecoms tycoon, lives abroad to avoid a jail term for graft at home.
Date created : 2010-04-05