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April 12, 2009

Ex-Thai PM calls for revolution

POLITICS - Thailand's ousted prime minister called for a revolution today after rioting erupted in the capital, with protesters commandeering public buses and swarming triumphantly over military vehicles in unchecked defiance after the government declared a state of emergency.

Bands of red-shirted anti-government protesters roamed areas of Bangkok, with some furiously smashing cars carrying Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his aides and others beating up motorists who hurled insults at them.

Over 10 major intersections were occupied by the 30,000 protesters, who used buses to barricade major roads, spawning massive traffic jams. Police abandoned their stations and vans/cars were looted.

Ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, regarded by most of the protesters as their leader, called for a revolution and said he might return from exile to lead it.

"Now that they have tanks on the streets, it is time for the people to come out in revolution. And when it is necessary, I will come back to the country," he said in a telephoned message to followers who surrounded the current prime's minister office.

Thaksin was ousted by a military coup in 2006 for alleged corruption and abuse of power. He remains popular in the impoverished countryside. His opponents took to the streets last year to help bring down two pro-Thaksin governments, seizing Bangkok's two airports in November 2008 for about a week.

Abhisit's government suffered a major humiliation Saturday when it failed to stop hundreds of demonstrators from storming the venue of an Asian summit in the beach resort of Pattaya, forcing its cancellation and the evacuation of the leaders by helicopter. The United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship say Abhisit's four-month-old government took power illegitimately and they want new elections. They accuse the country's elite of undermining democracy by interfering in politics.

Today demonstrators swarmed over two of three armoured personnel carriers outside a shopping mall in downtown Bangkok, waving flags in celebration. An old lady atop one of the vehicles screamed "Democracy!" before the protesters directed the soldiers to drive the APCs back to a military camp.

Outside the Interior Ministry, a furious mob attacked Abhisit's car with poles, a ladder and even flower pots as it slowly made its escape. The prime minister's secretary and his driver were also attacked and badly injured. Police in riot gear nearby did nothing.

"The government can't do anything," said Lada Yingmanee, a 37-year-old protester. "We will show them what tens of thousands of unarmed civilians can do. The people will finally rule our beloved Thailand."

Last week similar protests drew crowds of over 100,000 people in Bangkok.

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