About twenty-thousand supporters of exiled former Thai Prime Minister
Shinawatra braved heavy rains and flooding in central Bangkok on
Saturday to hear him appeal by video link for national reconciliation
and new elections.
The demonstration by Thaksin supporters known as "red shirts" took place on the third anniversary of his ouster by a military coup, while he was attending a UN general assembly meeting in New York.
Thousands of security forces kept a close watch on the demonstrators as Mr. Thaksin spoke, but there were no reports of disturbances or violence. Mr. Thaksin said in his three-year absence Thailand had slid backward and he called for a return to normality.
Meanwhile in a separate development near the Cambodian border, "red shirt" villagers clashed with royalist protesters known as "yellow shirts" who were on their way to a disputed temple site. The French news agency reports clashes between royalists and riot police at the site.
An international court gave Cambodia control of the Preah Vihear temple complex in 1962, but some nearby lands remain in dispute. The "yellow shirt" protesters want the government to push Cambodian forces back from the temple.
Thailand's Cabinet had approved a special security law that allowed soldiers to control the movements of protesters in the Bangkok district, where parliament and other government buildings are located. The law will be in effect until Monday.
On Friday, the army chief (General Anupong Paojinda) denied rumors the military would stage a coup in the prime minister's absence. Prime Minister Abhisit is heading to New York for this year's U.N. General Assembly.
Mr. Thaksin was accused of corruption and abuse of power while in office. He denies the charges and calls them politically motivated. He was subsequently convicted in absentia and sentenced to two years in prison.