Supporters of toppled Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra held small, symbolic rallies at military bases nationwide on Thursday in what analysts see as a prelude to a bigger showdown with Thailand's fragile ruling coalition.
Hundreds of the billionaire's red-shirted supporters gathered outside army barracks in at least 10 provinces and in Bangkok, calling on soldiers to join their movement and saying they wanted to pre-empt another military coup.
While small, the protests illustrate the widening scope of Thailand's anti-government protest movement and the resilience of Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and now lives in self-imposed exile to avoid jail on a corruption conviction.
At a military base in northern Chiang Mai, Thaksin's home province, protesters handed red roses to troops in an attempt to show they have the backing of rank and file soldiers.
"We are here to show support for the soldiers who are with us and condemn those who are with the undemocratic elite," said Surachai Saedan, a regional leader of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD).
The UDD says it is fighting against political meddling by influential royalists, businessmen, aristocrats and middle-classes -- ardent opponents of Thaksin often referred to as "yellows" in the country's polarising, colour-coded conflict.
The UDD has held minor rallies almost daily in recent weeks, with the judiciary, independent bodies, the military and royal advisers among the targets of their ire.
"It's psychological warfare," said Thai academic Charnvit Kasetsiri. "The reds have put their concerns on the public agenda through these small protests."
The UDD has leapt on rumours -- which they are accused of starting -- of an imminent military coup as talk of splits in the much-politicised armed forces are met by all-too predictable displays of solidarity in battalions across the country.
ReutersLast Mod: 04 Şubat 2010, 13:57