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Thai Red Shirts Mark Anniversary of Protests

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TEHRAN, March 13 (ICANA) – About 20,000 Red Shirt supporters gathered in the Thai capital to mark the first year anniversary of the anti government protests that started on March 12th last year.
Sunday, March 13, 2011 9:52:51 AM
Thai Red Shirts Mark Anniversary of Protests

The gathering although strong in numbers was muted in comparison to the heated rhetoric of last year. They gathered at the Democracy Monument to greet their recently freed leaders.

The rally was attended by a diverse crowd ranging from families and older citizens to youth and spiritual leaders.

They all expressed solidarity with the cause of the United Front for Democracy, the official name of the red shirt party - their stated cause being true democracy through immediate and free and fair polls.

Last year's ten week long protests claimed the lives of about 90 people and ended with a violent military crackdown coupled with the arrest of core Red Shirt leaders.

The last few days were riddled with mysterious sniper attacks, use of force by both sides, direct attacks on those attending rallies and burning down of public properties.

While the Red Shirts hold the government responsible for attacks on civilians, the current administration arrested several Red leaders and supporters on grounds of inciting violence and terrorism charges.

Not only was the March 12th rally tame and subdued, but the military police who were accused of using excessive force last year also seemed at ease.

Miltiary police who were accused of using excessive force during the protests last year were at ease on the 1 year anniversary.

They empathized with the right of the Red Shirts to freely express their political views but were also confident that they are strong enough to maintain order despite the large turn out.

The Red Shirts themselves have altered their strategy this time around in an attempt to appease security forces as well as diverse segments of Thai society and to illustrate that they are peaceful.

The red shirt leaders claim that this gathering being attended by thousands from all over the country is simply a solemn reminder of pending elections and that they do not intend to have a protracted rally but are instead awaiting a final polling date from the Abhisit administration.

Meanwhile the Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, reported plans to dissolve the parliament in early May to the election commission just a day before the rally took place.

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