Thai protesters poured their own blood at the gates of the prime minister’s residence, but their four-day rally backing their ousted political hero appeared to be running out of steam.
Thousands of red-shirted protesters loyal to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra massed in heavy rain at a police barricade outside the building, as a small group spilled the blood.
Police said a 1,000-strong security force had been deployed and six checkpoints set up around the residence of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in the affluent Sukhumvit district of Bangkok, where the Reds paralysed traffic.
The protesters’ bizarre bloody spectacle began a day earlier, when they pressed their demand for Abhisit to resign by making a mass collection of 300 litres of their own blood, some of which was later poured at his office gates.
Police said more than 10,000 protesters remained in the capital Wednesday, down significantly from the rally’s peak of more 100,000-plus at the weekend, and despite repeated calls by Red leaders and Thaksin himself for them to stay.
But even as numbers dwindled, protest leaders pleaded for patience and said success was within their grasp.
“We are near victory…. If we make a mistake now we will be defeated for a long time. We want a sustainable victory so please be patient,” Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan urged the crowd on Wednesday before leaving for Abhisit’s empty and heavily secured residence.
Protests to step up
After their bloody display, the Reds said they would picket the US embassy. They were angered Tuesday by remarks from the deputy prime minister who cited a US intelligence report that said Thaksin had ordered his supporters to incite violence.
The Reds are protesting against the perceived elitism and illegitimacy of the Abhisit government, which came to power via a December 2008 parliamentary vote after a controversial court ruling ousted Thaksin’s allies.
Last month another court decision confiscated 1.4 billion dollars from Thaksin, whose followers are largely from the poor rural north and fervently support the populist policies he introduced before being ousted in a 2006 coup.
Blood a weapon for peace
“I hope this blood spilling will work and (Abhisit) will get out of office soon,” said Kaew Saengthong, a 37-year-old farmer from Chiang Mai, here since Friday.
“We can’t let him run the country anymore. We are dying because we have nothing to eat — the economy is so bad,” she said.
Abhisit has been staying with other key leaders at an army barracks in the capital’s northern outskirts since the rally began, and the protesters massed there briefly on Monday as he refused their demand to call snap elections.
On Wednesday he was due to fly to Thailand’s far south, where a six-year separatist insurgency continues.
The government enacted a strict Internal Security Act to monitor the Bangkok rally, deploying 50,000 soldiers and police across the city and surrounding provinces as it feared violence by saboteurs.
Abhisit’s residence has been hit several times in recent weeks by protesters throwing bags of excrement at the walls. As riot police guarded his home on Wednesday, many used their plastic shields as umbrellas in the heavy rain.
The premier has twice rejected the crowd’s demand to dissolve parliament, saying he must think of the country’s interests and not only those of the Reds.
Police said with falling numbers of demonstrators, they expected the rally to end within a few days. Red Shirt leaders have been using their rally stage to appeal for more protesters to arrive from the provinces.
Thaksin, who lives in exile to avoid a two-year jail term for graft at home, has spoken to the crowd via video link each night, urging them to fight on.