Thai 'Red Shirts' mark a year since Bangkok clashes

April 11, 2011 - 0:0

BANGKOK (AFP) – Crowds of anti-government “Red Shirts” began to gather in Bangkok on Sunday to mark a year since deadly clashes between troops and protesters during their mass rally in the capital.

Police have predicted up to 50,000 people could attend the gathering, which is set to be addressed via video link by fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a hero for many of the red-shirted demonstrators.
Thailand, which is preparing for elections set to be held later this year, remains deeply divided following the worst civil violence in decades in April and May 2010 that left more than 90 people dead, mostly civilians.
Fights between the military and protesters on April 10 last year left 26 people dead and marked a violent turning point in the rally.
The protest was halted the following month, when troops firing live rounds and backed by armored vehicles moved in to disperse the demonstrators.
Dressed in their signature scarlet garb, the Reds began Sunday's year-on demonstration mid-afternoon with a religious ceremony, at which monks prayed for the dead and relatives held pictures of their loved ones who were killed.
“The purpose of the rally Sunday is to mark the first anniversary of the brutal crackdown on unarmed protesters and we want to honor our heroes,” said Red Shirt spokesman Worawut Wichaidit.
“We hope that this rally will attract a large number of Red Shirts,” he said.
Recent gatherings have attracted tens of thousands of protesters to the capital and marked a show of strength for the movement. But they have been well short of the 100,000 people who joined last year's protests at their peak.