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Thai protests turn bloody in show of defiance

Thai protesters seeking a change of government turned to shock tactics yesterday, pouring gallons of their own blood into a glistening puddle at the gate of the Prime Minister's office.

The dramatic gesture, repeated in front of the headquarters of the Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiava's Democrat Party, grabbed attention but put the "Red Shirt" protest movement no closer to its goal of forcing new elections.

More than 100,000 demonstrators from all over the country gathered in Bangkok on Sunday, vowing to keep up their protest until victory. But Mr Abhisit has rejected their demands to dissolve parliament.

The protesters comprise supporters of the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a 2006 military coup for alleged corruption, and pro-democracy activists who opposed the army takeover. They believe that Mr Abhisit came to power illegitimately with the connivance of the traditional ruling class.

Thousands of Red Shirts formed long lines yesterday to have their blood drawn by nurses, after their leaders vowed to collect at least 1,000 litres of blood. They claimed to have nearly one-third of that. Suriya Laemthong, 28, shielded his eyes with a baseball cap as a nurse pricked his arm. He said he doubted that the blood-spilling would compel the government to step down, but that he finds the protest strategies "rational and acceptable".

The Red Shirts say that if the people are willing to sacrifice their blood, Mr Abhisit should show similar spirit by relinquishing power.

Riot police allowed protest leaders to approach the iron front gate and pour out the blood, which oozed under the gate.