Bangkok rallies to resume this year

Bangkok rallies to resume this year

BANGKOK - Opponents of new Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva have vowed they would resume protests in the New Year, after forcing the premier to move the venue of his first policy speech earlier in the week.

Thousands of red-shirted supporters of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra dispersed overnight Tuesday after blockading parliament for two days to press their demands for fresh elections.

The protesters had prevented Abhisit from giving his maiden, policy address in parliament, and the prime minister had to deliver the speech at the Foreign Ministry instead.

"We will come back after the New Year break," Shinawat Haboonpak, a core pro-Thaksin protest leader, told AFP. "The fight is not over yet, we will not give up."

The pledge raises the threat of 2009 starting with the kind of problems that marred 2008, during which a royalist, anti-Thaksin group called the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) held months of protests against the government.

Abhisit, Thailand's third prime minister in four months, came to power in mid-December after a court barred previous premier Somchai Wongsawat - Thaksin's brother-in-law - from politics for five years.

He said he accepted that protests by Thaksin loyalists may continue but added that if the government was successful then the "protests could not pressure us". AFP