| BANGKOK, March 29
BANGKOK, March 29 Tens of thousands of Thai
anti-government protesters rallied across Bangkok on Saturday in
their latest bid to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, a
day before a crucial vote to elect a new Senate.
Waving flags and blowing whistles, protesters marched from
Lumpini Park in the business district of Bangkok, where
protesters retreated to earlier this month, toward the city's
"There are enough protesters to cause traffic headaches but
there are less participants than at past rallies," Paradorn
Pattanathabutr, a security adviser to the prime minister, told
"We think the crowd will swell to 50,000 people. Protesters
are still trickling in from outside the capital and we have
8,000 police on standby if violence takes place but, overall,
we're not expecting anything to happen."
Thailand has been in crisis since former premier Thaksin
Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother, was ousted in a 2006 coup. The
conflict broadly pits the Bangkok-based middle class and
royalist establishment against the mostly poorer, rural
supporters of the Shinawatras.
Saturday's march is seen as a test of the anti-government
movement's popularity as the number of protesters has dwindled
considerably in recent weeks.
By mid-morning police put the crowd at around 30,000. Around
500 protesters from the Network of Students and People for the
Reform of Thailand, a splinter group of the main protest group,
broke into the compound of Government House, a site largely
abandoned by officials.
Over the past five months, protesters have shut state
offices and disrupted a Feb. 2 election which was nullified by a
court on March 21, leaving Thailand in political limbo and
Yingluck at the head of a caretaker government with limited
Since the current round of protests kicked off in November,
23 people have been killed in political violence.
Protesters want political and electoral reforms before a new
general election and to rid the country of Thaksin's influence.
"We will no longer accept this oppressive regime. They,
Thaksin and Yingluck, are no longer welcome in Thailand,"
protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told reporters as he led
protesters who shouted "Yingluck, get out!".
Yingluck has dismissed calls by protesters to step down but
faces several legal challenges that could lead to her removal.
She has until Monday to defend herself before the National
Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) for dereliction of duty over a
rice-buying scheme that has run up huge losses.
If the commission recommends her impeachment, she could be
removed from office by the upper house Senate which may have an
anti-Thaksin majority after an election for half its members on
The vote is to elect 77 senators for the 150-seat Senate.
The rest are appointed, and a government attempt to make it a
fully elected body was one of the sparks that set off the latest
unrest in November.
The non-elected Senators are picked by judges and senior
officials from agencies such as the National Anti-Corruption
Commission (NACC), members of an establishment whom government
supporters see as viscerally anti-Thaksin.
"Red shirt" supporters of Yinguck and Thaksin are sounding
more militant under hardline new leaders and say they are
prepared to take to the streets of Bangkok as moves to impeach
Yingluck gather pace, increasing the risk of a confrontation.
They plan a big rally, possibly in Bangkok, on April 5.
At the height of the current protests more than 200,000
people took to the streets to demand Yingluck's resignation.
(Additional reporting by Chaiwat Subprasom; Editing by Jeremy