5 Apr 2010

Protesters defy orders to leave central Bangkok

6:34 am on 5 April 2010

More than 50,000 protesters defied orders to leave the Thai capital's main shopping district on Sunday, despite threats of mass arrests.

Despite repeated warnings they could face up to a year in jail, the Red Shirt protesters remained encamped for a second night at a major intersection lined by upmarket department stores and five-star hotels.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said the government would seek a court order on Monday to end the rally, which he says violates a tough Internal Security Act imposed last month.

The protesters say they will not leave until parliament is dissolved and fresh elections are called.

They are already occupying two areas: the shopping district and Phan Fah Bridge in Bangkok's old quarter.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said a peaceful poll now would be difficult due to the tensions and repeated his recent offer to dissolve parliament in December, a year early.

The demonstrators are mainly supporters of former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted as prime minister of Thailand in a coup in 2006.