- Title: THAILAND: Thai "red shirts" commemorate Bangkok unrest
- Date: 11th April 2011
- Summary: VARIOUS OF PROTESTERS HOLDING UP CANDLES AND CHANTING PROTESTERS WATCHING THAKSIN'S VIDEO CONFERENCE TO ADDRESSING THE GATHERING THAKSIN SPEAKING ON SCREEN MORE OF GATHERING AT THE DEMOCRACY MONUMENT
- Embargoed: 26th April 2011 13:00
- Location: Thailand, Thailand
- Country: Thailand
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVASL3QBPGVH5R5L1MO4D7HJ6I4
- Story Text: About 40,000 red-shirted, anti-government protesters gathered in Bangkok's old quarter on Sunday (April 10) to mark the one-year anniversary of violent clashes with the military in which 26 people were killed and more than 800 wounded.
No one has been declared responsible for the violence that began on April 10 last year when soldiers fought with thousands of protesters near the Phan Fah bridge and Rajdumnoen Road in Bangkok, near government buildings and the regional U.N. headquarters.
The red-shirted supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a graft-convicted populist billionaire ousted in a 2006 coup, said they would continue to hold protests until the government takes responsibility for the violence.
"In our life time, the people who were killed and the people who on the same side of the slain victims will never reconcile with murderers," Red Shirts' leader Jatuporn Promphan told the crowd at the start of the ceremony.
Streets were festooned with banners bearing red-shirt slogans such as "fight for democracy" or "truth today." One read: "Red never die", while another with photo of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva with words of "Murderer" run across top of his photos.
Five soldiers and 21 civilians were killed, including Reuters television cameraman Hiro Muramoto, a 43-year-old Japanese national, on April 10 last year.
Witnesses reported seeing flashes of gunfire from troops but the government blamed civilian deaths on shadowy, unidentified black-clad gunmen who were filmed in the area.
Police concluded on March 24 they had no evidence to indicate troops killed Muramoto, a reversal of preliminary findings by Thailand's Department of Special Investigation (DSI) that a soldier may have fired the fatal bullet.
Authorities expect about 75,000 red shirts to gather until well past midnight, a turnout that would be the largest since unrest over April and May last year killed a total of 91 people, wounded more than 1,800 and sparked widespread arson in Bangkok.
About 20,000 had assembled by early evening, with about 2,100 police were deployed to the area.
The mostly rural and urban poor United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, or the red shirts, took to the streets on March 12 last year demanding elections in festive rallies that descended into violence on April 10.
On that night, soldiers failed repeatedly in attempts to dislodge the protesters from the area, at first firing tear gas and rubber bullets before coming under attack with grenades and responding with live ammunition.
The government said soldiers used live fire only in self-defence and denied soldiers were responsible for any deaths or injuries.
Relatives of some of the dead and wounded have filed civil lawsuits against three state agencies. The government has also faced intense diplomatic pressure from Japan to identify who fired the bullet that killed Muramoto.
The red shirts accuse Abhisit of lacking a popular mandate and coming to power illegitimately, heading a coalition the military cobbled together after courts dissolved a pro-Thaksin party that led the previous government.
Abhisit, backed by the royalist establishment, says he was voted into office by the same parliament that picked his Thaksin-allied predecessors. His party plans to hold an election around the middle of this year.
The election is expected to be close between Abhisit's ruling Democrats and the red shirts' parliamentary allies, the Puea Thai Party, and the outcome could be rejected by supporters of either party, fuelling more instability.
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