Red shirt protesters gather in Thai capital

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Red shirt protesters gather in Thai capital

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Anti-government protesters in Thailand are converging on Bangkok for what they have promised will be a “million-man march”.

The red-shirted supporters of former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra have promised a non-violent protest – but state security is high.

Around 40,000 soldiers and police have been deployed in case things turn ugly.

Shinawatra was ousted in a military coup four years ago and the demonstrators have vowed to paralyse the capital until new elections are called. Smaller protests are also being held across the country.

They have branded the current government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as an ‘‘unelected elite”.’

So far the political turbulence has failed to shatter confidence in Thailand’s financial markets and many observers doubt even violent protests will derail the government, which is backed by the army’s top brass.

Earlier this week, an Internal Security Act was invoked to give the military special powers to restore order if necessary.

The latest rallies add new strain to a seemingly intractable political conflict between the military, urban elite and royalists who wear the colour yellow and the red rural supporters of Thaksin.