Bangkok: Thousands of red-shirted, anti-government demonstrators converged on the Thai capital from the north and northeast on Saturday, vowing to oust the government in a mass, do-or-die display of muscle.
Although protest leaders stressed they would not resort to violence, many businesses closed down, social events were cancelled and Bangkok`s normally chaotic traffic was unusually light.
The "million-man march”, which is to climax on Sunday, is regarded by some as the last chance for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to return to Thailand.
The Red Shirts, formally known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, are made up of followers of Thaksin, along with other people who oppose the 2006 military coup that toppled him.
Forcing the government out of power, Thaksin loyalists say, could pave the way for his pardon and return. Thaksin, who resides in Dubai, faces criminal charges for abuse of power.
Several thousand protesters started gathering peacefully in Bangkok on Friday. On Saturday morning, far larger numbers were seen on the outskirts of the sprawling city arriving in trucks, buses and motorcycles from the Thaksin heartland — the impoverished, rural northeast and the north, where the fugitive leader was born.