Sun, Dec 14, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Ousted Thai PM set to speak to 45,000 from exile

MESSAGE Two days before the country votes for a new prime minister, a leader of a pro-Thaksin group said that he would blame turmoil on the army

AFP , BANGKOK

Tens of thousands of supporters of ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra packed a Bangkok stadium yesterday to hear him speak from exile, two days ahead of a crucial vote for a new prime minister.

Thaksin, who is living abroad to dodge corruption charges, was to speak to the crowd of at least 45,000 by phone, 10 days after his allies were forced from power by a court decision that splintered their governing coalition.

Jatuporn Prompan, a leader of the pro-Thaksin “Truth Today” group, said that the former prime minister would accuse the army of meddling in Thai politics.

He later told the crowd — clad in red, the color of support for Thaksin — that the army was behind the defection of former ruling party lawmakers who are now backing opposition Democrat party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva for the post of prime minister.

The political maneuvers follow six months of protests by the anti-Thaksin People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), during which they besieged government offices and blocked Bangkok’s airports.

“What the military leaders have done contradicts the will of the Thai people in backing Abhisit to be prime minister,” Jatuporn said. “Our plan is not to copy what the PAD have done to the country. We call for a new prime minister who is not Abhisit to amend the Constitution and prosecute the PAD on treason and terrorism charges.”

Thaksin was to address the crowd from 8pm for about an hour via a recorded video message, and then in a live phone conversation with another rally leader, Jatuporn said.

Police estimated 45,000 people had crammed into the National Stadium, with thousands waving heart-shaped clappers on the field in front of a huge stage draped with a red sign saying: “Truth Today: Against the disguised coup.”

“Truth Today” claimed 10,000 supporters had gathered in northeastern Udon Thani alone for Thaksin’s second public address since leaving Thailand in August.

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