BANGKOK, THAILAND – Thailand’s fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra on Saturday used his Twitter page to call on his supporters to join a mass anti-government rally, after a court seized most of his fortune.
Thaksin’s loyal “Red Shirts”, so-called for the clothes they wear, will gather in Bangkok on March 14 to demand the return of the populist leader, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006, and that the government quit.
“I would like to urge those who love democracy, justice, equality, and those who think that I have been bullied without mercy and humanity, to join the rally,” wrote Thaksin on Saturday.
Thailand’s Supreme Court last month ordered the state seizure of most of Thaksin’s 2.3-billion-dollar shares wealth that it ruled he accumulated illegally by abusing his power to benefit his telecoms firm.
He is currently living in Dubai to escape a two-year jail term from another corruption case. Several other graft charges are outstanding against him.
The Red Shirts say they expect up to 600,000 people to attend this month’s rallies, with people starting to gather from around the country on March 12 before the main demonstration two days later.
Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva has said his trip to Australia would go ahead as planned on March 13-17 despite the rallies, but a slew of extra security measures are in place and he has said tougher laws may be invoked.
Thailand’s pro- and anti-Thaksin camps have both conducted destabilizing street campaigns since the twice-elected tycoon was ousted, with some of the demonstrations turning violent.
Red Shirt riots in April derailed a major Asian summit and left two people dead.
Thailand’s social rifts sharply divide its Thaksin-loving poorer communities, largely in the north and northeast rural regions, from those in the Bangkok-based elite amongst the military, palace and bureaucracy.