Protesters say anti-government demonstrations will continue
Last Updated: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 | 5:16 AM ET
The Associated Press
By: CBC News -World
Anti-government protesters in Bangkok hold stickers that call for the dissolution of Thailand's parliament. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) Thailand's government extended the use of a stringent security law Tuesday ahead of another week of mass protests by anti-government activists in Bangkok.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the cabinet voted to extend the Internal Security Act until March 30. The vote was held under tight security outside the capital to avoid protesters who have been camped near his office for almost two weeks.
The Internal Security Act, which was initially invoked from March 9 to 23, will cover Bangkok and two nearby provinces that house government offices and the Suvarnabhumi international airport, Abhisit told reporters.
The act gives the prime minister authority to use the military to restore order and allows the government to impose curfews and restrict freedom of movement in situations deemed harmful to national security.
The prime minister has been sleeping at an army base to avoid the protesters who marched through the streets last week and tossed bags of blood donated by supporters at the prime minister's office and official residence.
The so-called Red Shirt movement is demanding Abhisit call fresh elections. Hundreds of protesters fanned out across Bangkok on motorcycles Tuesday distributing bumper stickers that said, "Dissolve Parliament."
Rally planned for SaturdayProtesters have called for a mass rally Saturday to wind through Bangkok, after drawing as many as 100,000 people to a similar event last weekend. Their protests have clogged traffic but remained peaceful, despite widespread concerns of violence.
Many of the Red Shirt protesters, whose name comes from their signature attire, are supporters of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and pro-democracy activists who opposed the 2006 coup that removed Thaksin from power.
Thailand has been in constant political turmoil since early that year, when demonstrations accusing Thaksin of corruption and abuse of power began.
In 2008, when Thaksin's political allies came back to power for a year, his opponents occupied the prime minister's office compound for three months and seized Bangkok's two airports for a week. Thaksin's allies were later forced out by court rulings.
Abhisit's Democrat Party then rallied the support of enough lawmakers to form a coalition government in December 2008.
The Red Shirts believe Abhisit came to power illegitimately with help from the military and other parts of the traditional ruling class, and the protesters argue that only new elections can restore integrity to Thai democracy.