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''Dharma Army'' keeps up vigil against Thai PM

By Staff
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BANGKOK, Feb 27: A hard core of Buddhist ''Dharma Army'' protesters kept up their campaign for the resignation of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra today, the morning after the largest anti-government rally in 14 years.

As workers completed the clean-up after yesterday evening's protest, which police said had peaked at 50,000, 1,500 supporters of lead demonstrator Chamlong Srimuang led a prayer session in front of Bangkok's golden-spired Grand Palace.

Chamlong, an ascetic 70-year-old general who led a successful but bloody ''people power'' uprising against a military government in 1992, is hoping ordinary Bangkok people will join up again later in the day to maintain the pressure on Thaksin.

A former telecoms tycoon, Thaksin won a second consecutive landslide election 12 months ago, but has seen his popularity wane under accusations of undermining constitutional checks and balances and tailoring policy to suit his family's business.

His family's 1.9 billion dollars tax-free sale in January of their stake in the telecoms empire he founded fuelled the middle-class outrage, to the point that Thaksin was forced to call snap elections on April 2 -- three years early.

His Thai Rak Thai party, which held 377 seats out of 500 in the Lower House of parliament, is expected to win comfortably again, although with a reduced majority.

Yesterday, Chamlong vowed to carry on until Thaksin stepped down, although it remained unclear how much momentum among the wider population he would manage to generate in the long term.

REUTERS

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