Anti-Thaksin protesters march on British embassy in Bangkok

Monday, August 18, 2008 by Editor

BANGKOK (AFP) — Thousands of protesters clad in bright yellow marched through central Bangkok to the British embassy on Tuesday to demand the extradition of ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Chanting "Return Thaksin home" and waving banners reading "Most wanted criminals: Thaksin and (his wife) Pojaman", the noisy crowd blocked traffic in one of the capital's main shopping districts.

"We are coming here to submit a letter to the British government asking them to return Thaksin to receive justice in Thailand," Chamlong Srimuang, one of the protest leaders, told the crowd.

A representative of British ambassador Quinton Quayle received the letter from protest leaders, who have demanded a response within seven days.

Bangkok police special branch said that up to 7,000 protesters flooded the streets, while bystanders estimated the crowd to be at least 3,000-strong.

The protesters from the so-called People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) wore yellow T-shirts and headscarfs -- a show of allegiance to the king -- and carried signs in English and Thai.

"Thaksin is not a political refugee but a criminal evading an arrest warrant," one banner hoisted above the crowd read.

Thaksin and Pojaman skipped a required court appearance in a corruption case last Monday and instead fled to England, with Thaksin saying he believed political interference in Thailand would rob him of a fair trial on graft charges.

A warrant has been issued for his arrest, and the Thai attorney general's office has begun considering a possible bid to extradite Thaksin from Britain, where he owns the Premier League football club Manchester City.

Thaksin was overthrown in a coup in September 2006 and returned to Thailand in February this year after 18 months of self-imposed exile in England, vowing to fight the corruption charges.

But instead the cases mounted, and on July 31 his wife was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to three years in jail.

The PAD has been holding street protests since May demanding the resignation of premier Samak Sundaravej, who was elected in December last year. They accuse Samak of being a puppet of his old ally Thaksin.