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Thaksin supporters vow new protests

Supporters of ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra vowed Sunday to hold further protests, a day after rallying in Bangkok to mark the third anniversary of a coup that toppled their leader.

world Updated: Sep 20, 2009 11:24 IST

Supporters of ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra vowed Sunday to hold further protests, a day after rallying in Bangkok to mark the third anniversary of a coup that toppled their leader.

Around 26,000 so-called "Red Shirt" demonstrators dispersed in the early hours of Sunday after gathering outside the main government offices the previous day to hear a speech by exiled billionaire Thaksin.

"We will continue to stage our rallies. The fight will not end until democracy is restored in Thailand," Nattawut Saikuar, one of the main leaders of the Red Shirts, told AFP.

He said the movement, which draws its support from Thailand's rural north where people benefited from Thaksin's populist policies, would now open schools to "educate people about democracy."

In his videolink speech on Saturday night, Thaksin urged current prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to call fresh elections to foster reconciliation, warning that Thailand was becoming a "failed state".

The Red Shirts say that Abhisit came to power unfairly after protesters from the rival "Yellow Shirt" movement blockaded Bangkok's airports and effectively forced the previous, pro-Thaksin government from power in December.

The Yellow Shirts were back in action on Saturday, clashing with police and villagers at an ancient temple on the disputed border with Cambodia and leaving dozens of people injured.

Authorities were to allow them near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple on Sunday to read a statement calling for Thailand to push Cambodian troops from the area, where there have been several cross-border battles in the past year.

Thailand remains deeply divided three years after the September 19, 2006 coup that drove out Thaksin while he was out of the country attending the United Nations general assembly in New York.

Abhisit was due to leave Thailand on Sunday to fly to the same event, but the chief of the kingdom's powerful army scotched rumours that there would be another putsch in his absence.

Oxford-educated Abhisit meanwhile apologised for the temple incident.

"I am sorry that there was a clash and injuries to people," Abhisit said in his weekly television programme, adding that his government was not conceding territory to Cambodia.