Thai Red Shirts hurl own blood at PM's house

By: Associate Press
Thai riot police officers stand in front of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's residence after protesters and supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra fought the police lines and poured blood on the gate and fence Wednesday, March 17, 2010 in Bangkok, Thailand. Red-shirted protesters hurled plastic bags filled with gallons (liters) of their own blood into the residential compound of the Thai prime minister Wednesday, hoping their shock tactics will bring down his government. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)
BANGKOK — Leaders of Thailand's anti-government protesters, who have hurled their own blood at the offices and home of the prime minister, said Wednesday they will remain camped out in capital indefinitely, though in smaller numbers.
Hoping to bring down Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's government, red-shirted protesters hurled plastic bags filled with their own blood into his residential compound Wednesday — following similar protests the day before at his office and the headquarters of his Democrat Party.
Several thousand later gathered in front of the U.S. Embassy, saying they wanted to tell the international community that their government is illegitimate.
The "blood sacrifices" grabbed attention, but put the Red Shirt movement no closer to its goal of forcing new elections.
The announcement of plans for an extended protest contrasts sharply with pre-demonstration boasts that they would mount a "million-man march," putting enough pressure on the government to topple it within a few days. More than 100,000 demonstrators converged on the capital Sunday, but their demands and deadlines were snubbed by Abhisit, and the crowd shrunk Wednesday to around 40,000, according to Maj. Gen. Vichai Sangparpai, a commander in the metropolitan police.
The protesters consist of supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a 2006 military coup for alleged corruption, and pro-democracy activists who opposed the army takeover. They believe Abhisit came to power illegitimately with the connivance of the military and other parts of the traditional ruling class and that only new elections can restore integrity to Thai democracy. They also believe a new vote would bring Thaksin's allies to power.
After a strategy meeting, the Red Shirt leaders said they will maintain their protest, but on a smaller scale. They are encamped in an area of the old part of Bangkok that is a traditional venue for political protests.
"We'll maintain our stronghold, but there will be rotation of manpower," said one of the protest leaders, Veera Musikapong. "When the time is right, we will call for a 'million-man march' again."
The group also reaffirmed its commitment to nonviolence, and announced it is breaking ties with allies who had made high-profile threats of attacks if faced with government repression.
"We can rotate the people from Bangkok and provinces," said Nattawut Saikua, another protest leaders. "If we camp out here, Abhisit can't go home. Now he has to stay in an army camp. He can't come to work at the Government House or even stay in Bangkok."
Abhisit has been sleeping at an army base and taking frequent trips out of the city since preliminary protests began Friday.
On Wednesday, riot police first blocked all approaches to Abhisit's walled compound in an area that is home to many wealthy Thais and expatriates. But after negotiations, three dozen demonstrators were allowed to squeeze through the police cordon carrying about six 1.3-gallon (5-liter) plastic jugs filled with frothy blood over their heads.
They splattered blood across Abhisit's front gate and poured some of it into plastic bags that they hurled at the home, leaving the walls, roof and grounds smeared with red.
A heavy afternoon downpour ended as the blood spilling finished, leaving dark red puddles in the street that a white-suited medical cleanup team quickly hosed away. Some climbed on the prime minister's tile roof to remove the empty, blood-soaked bags.
The protesters' march to Abhisit's house and police cordons, thrown up after the government invoked an emergency decree, halted traffic in one direction on Sukhumvit Road, a major thoroughfare, paralyzing parts of the neighborhood. Restaurants closed their doors and residents of luxury condos were prevented from driving out of the area.
Many residents watched from their balconies or wandered into the street to take pictures. Most anti-government protests in the past have been confined to Bangkok's government district several miles (kilometers) away.
On Tuesday, thousands of Red Shirts formed long lines to have their blood drawn by nurses. Leaders claimed to have collected 80 gallons (300,000 cubic centimeters).
Associated Press writers Thanyarat Doksone and Kinan Suchaovanich, and photographer David Longstreath contributed to this report.

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