BANGKOK (Reuters) - Red-shirted protesters emptied bottles of their blood outside the home of Thailand’s prime minister on Wednesday in a symbolic sacrifice after the government rejected calls for elections.
Thai stocks hit a 19-month high and the baht rose to a 22-month peak on the fourth day of street rallies in Bangkok as investors took heart at the lack of violence and on the view that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva would survive the crisis.
Economists say the central bank is likely to bring forward an expected interest rate rise that could have been delayed by unrest. Benchmark five-year bond yields dropped two basis points to 3.53 percent as prices rose.
“The political event does not have as much teeth as expected,” said Chakkrit Charoenmetachai, an analyst with Globlex Securities, adding that foreign money should continue to flow into Thai assets if the protest did not spark violence.
But the supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra are not letting up in their campaign for new elections.
They promised a city-wide march on Saturday, bringing in reinforcements to cover thousands of protesters who became weary and left after days on the street in the scorching Bangkok heat.
“The government may think this is nearly over -- it isn’t,” a protest leader, Nattawut Saikua, told reporters, calling on Bangkok residents to join them.
Twice-elected Thaksin was ousted in a coup in 2006 and later sentenced to two years jail for graft. He fled shortly before his sentence was passed and lives mainly in Dubai. He now has Montenegrin citizenship and arrived there earlier this week, officials in the Balkan country said on Wednesday.
BLOOD, FOLK SONGS, RED FLAGS
Honking horns, singing folk songs and waving red flags, protesters converged on Abhisit’s house in an affluent Bangkok neighborhood where they splashed blood -- a few spoonfuls donated by each -- on the gates and fences amid pouring rain.
“We have washed Abhisit’s house with the blood of the common people to express our wish,” said Nattawut, as thousands of supporters rattled plastic clappers.
Protesters say the splashing of blood was a “symbolic sacrifice for democracy.” It is also a bid to re-energize a peaceful movement that appears to be waning in numbers.
Thousands of the “red shirt” protesters later on Wednesday gathered briefly outside the U.S. embassy demanding clarification of comments by Thailand’s deputy prime minister that he had received foreign intelligence suggesting acts of sabotage could take place during the rally.
Citing unnamed sources, local media suggested he was referring to U.S. intelligence, reportedly gleaned from a tapped phone conversation involving Thaksin. U.S. embassy officials declined to comment.
The government has repeatedly warned of possible sabotage, including bombings and assassinations but critics say the government is playing up the fear to discredit the protesters.
Some “red shirts” looked fatigued after days on Bangkok’s streets. Of up to 150,000 demonstrators who massed on Sunday night, many had left. Police said about 30,000 remained on Wednesday evening, a large number compared with past protests.
The threat of violence remains but clashes look increasingly unlikely. Abhisit has not stayed at his home since Friday and has taken refuge at a military base, keeping a low profile.
He went to the drought-afflicted north on Tuesday and left the capital on Wednesday for a funeral in the south.
Despite fiery rhetoric by demonstrators on how the mainly rural “red shirts” have been marginalized by the military, urban elite and royalists who back Abhisit, some expressed frustration about the rally’s lack of impact and clear direction.
“I am not sure we will win this time, especially without any real bloodshed,” said Pitaya Boonkum, a Bangkok taxi driver from northeastern Roi-et province.
“Red shirt” leaders, however, lauded the big show of non-violent support as a victory for their movement. “We have put concepts of class differences and double standards into the public’s mind,” Weng Tojirakarn, a protest leader, told Reuters.
Despite calls by leaders to continue, a drop in numbers may force the leaders to find new ways to end the rally in the near future or step it up, risking confrontations with authorities.
“It’s tricky for them. They have to do it in a way that does not embarrass the leaders and disappoint participants too much because that could undermine their credibility among their own supporters,” said political scientist Somjai Phagaphasvivat.
Writing by Ambika Ahuja; Additional reporting by Ploy Ten Kate; Editing by Louise Ireland
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