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 Thai protesters hold candlelight vigil for king

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PostSubject: Thai protesters hold candlelight vigil for king   Thu Mar 25, 2010 9:30 am

BANGKOK: Some 10,000 Thai anti-government protesters held a candlelight vigil on Wednesday to honour the nation's revered king, forming a sea of flickering light in the city's old quarter.

"We are lighting candles to show our loyalty to His Majesty the King," protest leader Veera Musikapong told the crowd of red-shirted supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The "Red Shirts" have held rolling demonstrations since March 14 to push for fresh elections to replace a government they say is illegitimate and the tool of the country's elites.

Thaksin, who lives in exile to avoid a jail term for corruption, has been accused by his critics of disloyalty to King Bhumibol Adulyadej - a grave offence in Thailand, where the monarch is regarded by many as a demi-god.

The 82-year-old, who is the world's longest-reigning monarch, has been hospitalised since September with a lung infection and fever. He has appeared in public several times since then.

The large crowd at the vigil, which stretched out along a main Bangkok avenue, sang a song in praise of the monarch, and then chanted "Long Live the King".

Reds leaders are also planning a rally on Saturday which they say will "shut down" Bangkok and exceed the parade they mounted in the capital last weekend which drew 65,000 people in a noisy but peaceful procession.

The Reds have rejected Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's offers of talks with a junior minister, saying they will only speak with the premier and only to discuss the dissolution of the lower house.

The Reds say the government is illegitimate because it came to power with army backing via a parliamentary vote in December 2008 after a court decision ousted Thaksin's allies from power.

The ruling brought an end to a blockade of Bangkok's airports by rival, royalist "Yellow Shirts". - AFP/de

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