Thai protesters target "hearts and minds" of Bangkok

Tens of thousands of opposition activists pressed ahead with anti-government protests on Friday, preparing for a new drive to win over Bangkok's politically powerful middle classes.

The demonstrators remained on the streets in Bangkok's historic heart, dancing to live folk music, listening to fiery speeches decrying the military's intervention in politics and planning Saturday's city-wide recruitment march.



Investors remain convinced there is no immediate danger to the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, backed by the majority in parliament. They have poured 35.3 billion baht (£726 million) into Thailand's stock market .SETI in the last month.



The bourse was up 2 per cent at a 20-month high on Friday, returning to positive territory after a day of profit-taking on Thursday snapped a six-day run of gains.



The "red-shirt" protesters plan to fan out across the city of 15 million people on motorcycles and pickup trucks on Saturday, handing out leaflets and calling on urban sympathisers to join their push to oust the government.



"We are asking Bangkok people to join our non-violent movement if they hate double standards and hypocrisy," said Weng Tojirakarn, a protest leader, adding that the group's street campaign will continue for at least another two weeks.



"I hope we have shown Bangkok that we are not seeking trouble and we hope people will join us if they hate minority rule."



Analysts said it would be a tough task.



"There is no case so far for the protest to gain mass support to overthrow the Abhisit government," Citigroup analyst Suchart Techaposai said in a research note.



But that is what the protest leaders are trying to change.

The mainly rural movement led by supporters of toppled and graft-convicted premier Thaksin Shinawatra is seeking to attract Bangkok middle classes, civil servants and rank-and-file soldiers and policemen to their battle against the government and the establishment elite, which include the military's top brass.



Their aim is to diversify their support base, strengthen their legitimacy and sustain a crowd that appears to be waning.



While few expect the rally to topple the government, a prolonged protest could start to undermine the leadership of a premier unable to visit his office, parliament, or his home, opting instead to stay at a fortified military compound.



Some of the most ardent "red shirts" are beginning to succumb to fatigue and leaders are seeking reinforcements. The number of protesters peaked at up to 150,000 on Sunday although tens of thousands still remain.



Many vowed to stay until the end, whenever that will be.



"There is no money at my farm. At least here, we are doing something important, and I'm not paid to be here," said Supalak Pumarin, from Udon Thani province, who, like many "red shirts", refutes common claims the masses were hired.



Convincing Bangkok residents to join their movement could prove difficult, especially given strong aversion to Thaksin, regarded by many in the capital as a corrupt autocrat.



Others remain unconvinced by a call for a "class war" by a former telecommunications tycoon living a lavish lifestyle in exile, mostly in Dubai.



"I don't think this government is effective but I cannot support a group which backs Thaksin," said Tanaporn Satittam, a 43-year-old Bangkok restaurant owner.



The common portrayal of the "red shirts" as a movement of uneducated, gullible bumpkins with a mob mentality deters others.



However, analysts said the support base for the campaign appeared to be diversifying.



"It's no longer rural versus urban and it has ceased to be the case for some time," said Charnvit Kasertsiri, a political historian.



"There is a lot of support for the reds even in Bangkok. The question is: Can they bring them out to the streets?"



Analysts say the "red shirts" need to be better organised and more united if they want an effective and prolonged rally.



Others point out that overthrowing a government is almost impossible in Thailand without intervention by the military or the judiciary, which brought down two Thaksin-allied governments.

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin