29 Dec 2008

New elections wanted in Thailand

7:10 am on 29 December 2008

Thailand is facing fresh political unrest: thousands of supporters of exiled former leader, Thaksin Shinawatra, have been demonstrating in Bangkok, calling for fresh elections.

Red-clad protesters blocked traffic outside parliament as more than 3000 police moved in to disperse them on Sunday.

New Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, 44, won a parliamentary vote to lead earlier this month, after a court dissolved the former ruling party. He is Thailand's third prime minister in four months.

The protesters want parliament to be dissolved as they believe the new PM has no legitimacy.

A Thai court disbanded the previous government loyal to Mr Thaksin because of electoral fraud.

Organisers said they would move to parliament where Mr Abhisit is due to give his maiden policy speech in the next few days.

Correspondents say Thaksin loyalists now using the same tactics that helped their rivals to bring down a government led by Mr Thaksin's allies this month.

The previous pro-Thaksin adminstration was led by Somchai Wongsawat.

However, the People's Alliance for Democracy movement accused Mr Somchai of being a proxy for Mr Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in 2006, and their demonstrations paralysed parts of Bangkok for months.

They culminated in a week-long occupation of Bangkok's main international airport last month, which left thousands of foreign tourists stranded.