Tens of thousands of red-shirted, anti-government protesters are
staging yet another mass rally in Bangkok, occupying the upscale
commercial district and paralyzing traffic in the Thai capital.
The government had ordered the so-called Red Shirts to end their demonstration by Saturday evening, but eventually conceded that negotiations would have to continue into Sunday as the deadline passed.
The rally of about 55,000 caused several department stores and malls to close their doors Saturday out of security concerns.
The march was mostly peaceful, except for an incident in which police had to rescue a driver whose luxury carwas smashed by angry protesters as he attempted to drive through the crowd.
A leader of the Red Shirts, Weng Tojirakarn, said his movement stands by its efforts to get Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's government to dissolve parliament within 15 days.
In two days of talks at the beginning of this week, the prime minister said he was willing to hold elections before his term ends, but he said he would not dissolve parliament, because such a move would not solve Thailand's deep political divisions.
The protesters are loyal to former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a military coup in 2006. Since then, Thailand has been wracked by a series of mass protests by the Red Shirts and their rival Yellow Shirts, who support the current government.
The latest series of huge rallies began March 14 in Bangkok.
Mr. Thaksin, who is living in exile to avoid a jail sentence, remains widely popular with Thailand's rural poor and urban working classes. He frequently addresses his supporters by video link, recently urging them to increase pressure on the government.