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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thaksin opponents to rally in Thailand over Cambodia trip

BANGKOK: Thousands of members of Thailand's royalist "Yellow Shirt" protest movement are set to rally in Bangkok on Sunday against a visit by fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra to neighbouring Cambodia.

The demonstrators said they were also gathering to express outrage at comments that billionaire Thaksin, who was ousted by the army in 2006, made in a newspaper interview about Thailand's widely revered king.

The yellow-clad People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) blockaded Bangkok's airports almost one year ago to force Thaksin's allies out of government, and also staged mass protests against him in the months before the coup.

Senior PAD leader Somsak Kosaisuk said the latest protest was about Cambodia's appointment of Thaksin as an economic adviser and Phnom Penh's refusal to extradite him when he visited the country this week.

"Our duty is to protect and preserve the country's honour and dignity and the monarchy. Cambodia violated the extradition treaty and allowed a convicted person to be its advisor," Somsak told AFP.

"This action harms our country's prestige. We will denounce both convicted Thaksin and (Cambodian Prime Minister) Hun Sen at the protest," he said.

Police estimated that 10,000 to 15,000 people would join the rally, which starts at 4:00 pm (0900 GMT) at the Sanam Luang parade ground in downtown Bangkok.

Deputy national police spokesman Piya Utayo said around 1,500 police officers would be deployed in the capital for the rally.

The strongly nationalist Yellow Shirts are also up in arms over comments made by Thaksin to British newspaper The Times, in which he called for reform of institutions around the monarchy.
The issue is sensitive because the widely revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 81 - a major force for stability in the politically divided nation - has been in hospital for the past two months.

Thaksin's four-day visit to Cambodia has caused a diplomatic crisis between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, with relations already tense after a series of deadly clashes in the past year over a disputed temple on their border.

Thaksin left Cambodia on Saturday.

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