More than 20,000 protesters ringed the prime minister’s office on Thursday, demanding the government resign, deriding its distribution of checks to millions of low-income workers as a payoff.
The demonstration began shortly after the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva began doling out $55 cheques to millions of Thais to stimulate an economy battered by the global financial crisis.
The demonstrators, followers of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, say Abhisit’s government came to power through illegal means and are demanding a dissolution of Parliament and fresh elections.
“Is he (Abhisit) trying to buy us off?” said a protest leader, Nattawut Sai-kua. “It is not going to work. We will protest until this illegitimate government is gone.”
The “red-shirts,” as they are commonly known because of their favored color, say Abhisit rose to power through illegal means -- after courts, backed by the powerful military, removed two previous pro-Thaksin administrations last year.
The court action ended one of Thailand’s worst political crises: Months of protests by Thaksin’s opponents who brought the government to a virtual standstill and severely damaged the country’s vital tourist industry by occupying both the prime minister’s office compound and the capital’s two airports.