Thousands of 'Red Shirts' donate blood to throw at government
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Tens of thousands of red-shirted supporters of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra rallied in Bangkok on Tuesday to call for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's resignation and donate blood to be thrown at Bangkok's government house.
AFP- Red-dressed Thai protesters Tuesday collected their own blood, planning to spill it at the government's gates in a symbolic gesture as they stepped up protests demanding snap elections.
Hundreds of "Red Shirts", loyal to deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra, were queuing up in Bangkok to offer a small amount of their blood in an unusual show of their determination, AFP reporters witnessed.
It is the latest move in an anti-government street demonstration that has drawn tens of thousands of protesters to the streets of the capital since it officially began at the weekend amid tight security.
"This blood is a sacrificial offering. To show our love for the nation, to show our sincerity," said Red Shirt leader Veera Musikapong, who was the first to donate, claiming the procedures were medically safe.
The protesters plan to spill the blood at the entrance to Government House in Bangkok's historic quarter at 6:00 pm (1100 GMT) if Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva continues to refuse their demands that he resign.
The group is protesting against the perceived elitism and illegitimacy of his government, which came to power via a December 2008 parliamentary vote that followed a controversial court ruling ousting Thaksin's allies.
Last month another court decision confiscated 1.4 billion dollars from Thaksin, whose followers are largely from the poor rural north and support him for the populist policies he introduced before being ousted in a 2006 coup.
On Monday the Red Shirts massed in front a military barracks on the northern outskirts of Bangkok where Abhisit's government and top military brass were holed up amid fears of violence by saboteurs.
But the premier rejected the crowd's demands in a nationally televised address. "Elections must be held under common rules and genuine calm. We have to listen to other people's voices, not just the protesters," he said.
At a separate army barracks across the city, four grenades exploded on Monday, wounding two soldiers and raised tensions, although it was not clear if the attacks were linked to the Red Shirts.
A senior police official said a male suspect had been arrested on Monday for the grenade attacks and his car confiscated, but the man denied any involvement in the incident.
A security force totalling 50,000 has been on hand across Bangkok and surrounding provinces for the rally, under a strict security law allowing authorities to ban gatherings and impose curfews.
Since the coup that ousted Thaksin, Thailand has been rocked by protests from both supporters and opponents of the ex-premier.
The telecoms tycoon, who lives abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption, is loathed by the royalist "Yellow Shirts," who are supported by Bangkok's elites and accuse him of graft and disloyalty to the revered royal family.
Thaksin, who was spotted over the weekend in Montenegro, made an impassioned plea to supporters by video link on Monday evening for the third consecutive night, urging them to fight on.
By that point the Red Shirts had returned to their main rally site in Bangkok's old quarter from the army base they had besieged, after Abhisit left the barracks by helicopter.
The pro-Thaksin forces had dubbed their rally a "million man march" but police have estimated their numbers at only 86,000 since they began arriving. Protest leaders gave various figures, all a lot higher than 100,000.
The protesters' plan to collect blood raised health officials' concern, but organisers insisted only qualified medics were on hand to collect donations, using one needle per person.
"If Abhisit is still stubborn, even though he does not have blood on his hands, his feet will be bloodied with our curses," protest leader Nattawut Saikur said.
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