Thailand’s forces on alert for protest

AP , BANGKOK

Sun, Nov 02, 2008 - Page 5

Thailand’s military and police were on alert yesterday as the country braced for fugitive and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to speak by telephone at a rally that many fear could spark more political violence.

Thousands of supporters poured into a Bangkok stadium for the seven-hour rally, with the highlight expected to be the telephone call from Thaksin in the evening.

The rally comes after several recent outbreaks of violence in Thailand’s extended political crisis, which remains focused on Thaksin despite his ouster in a 2006 military coup and a criminal conviction last month.

Thaksin, who fled to Britain in August, remains the country’s most influential politician. He is adored by the poor who benefited from his populist policies, but reviled by many of the educated elite in the cities, where his administration was seen as deeply corrupt.

Many people at the rally traveled from the north and northeast, the rural heartland where Thaksin built up a political base during his six years in power.