Hundreds of “Red Shirts”, loyal to deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra, were queuing up in Bangkok to offer a small amount of their blood in an unusual show of their determination, AFP reporters witnessed.
It is the latest move in an anti-government street demonstration that has drawn tens of thousands of protesters to the streets of the capital since it officially began at the weekend amid tight security.
“This blood is a sacrificial offering. To show our love for the nation, to show our sincerity,” said Red Shirt leader Veera Musikapong, who was the first to donate, claiming the procedures were medically safe.
The protesters plan to spill the blood at the entrance to Government House in Bangkok’s historic quarter at 18:00 (11:00 GMT) if Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva continues to refuse their demands that he resign.
The group is protesting against the perceived elitism and illegitimacy of his government, which came to power via a December 2008 parliamentary vote that followed a controversial court ruling ousting Thaksin’s allies.
Last month another court decision confiscated $1.4bn from Thaksin, whose followers are largely from the poor rural north and support him for the populist policies he introduced before being ousted in a 2006 coup.
On Monday the Red Shirts massed in front a military barracks on the northern outskirts of Bangkok where Abhisit’s government and top military brass were holed up amid fears of violence by saboteurs.
But the premier rejected the crowd’s demands in a nationally televised address. “Elections must be held under common rules and genuine calm. We have to listen to other people’s voices, not just the protesters,” he said.
At a separate army barracks across the city, four grenades exploded on Monday, wounding two soldiers and raised tensions, although it was not clear if the attacks were linked to the Red Shirts.
A senior police official said a male suspect had been arrested on Monday for the grenade attacks and his car confiscated, but the man denied any involvement in the incident.
A security force totalling 50 000 has been on hand across Bangkok and surrounding provinces for the rally, under a strict security law allowing authorities to ban gatherings and impose curfews. AFP