BANGKOK, Jan 11, 2010 (AFP) - Thousands of supporters of fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra rallied Monday outside the house of a royal adviser to protest against alleged judicial double-standards.
The demonstrators allege that the home of privy councillor and ex-prime minister Surayud Chulanont in the Khao Yai Tieng forest, 200 kilometres (120 miles) northeast of Bangkok is built illegally in a national park.
The protest is the first by Thaksin's so-called "Red Shirts" in 2010, and is apparently aimed at building support for big new anti-government rallies promised by the movement later this month in the capital.
Police said around 2,000 protesters had rallied opposite the entrance to the house and were expected to stay until the evening when there would be a telephone speech from Thaksin.
"Surayud's house is encroaching on the forest," core Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan told reporters, adding that forestry department officials had "failed in their duty" by allowing Surayud to build there.
Another Red Shirt leader, Suporn Attawong, said that people who trespassed in the forest normally faced legal action but Surayud had escaped censure because he was part of Thailand's powerful establishment.
Around 1,500 police officers were providing security.
Surayud headed the military administration that ran the country from after the 2006 coup that toppled Thaksin until elections in December 2007 that were won by Thaksin's allies.
Support for Thaksin is strongest in Thailand's impoverished rural northeast, where the forest is located, while the billionaire tycoon remains loathed by the Bangkok-based cliques in the palace, military and bureaucracy.
Twice-elected Thaksin is living abroad to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption imposed in 2008, a sentence that Thaksin says was politically motivated.
The Red Shirts are pressing for the resignation of current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who took power in December 2008 following the collapse of the previous, pro-Thaksin government.
They have held a series of protests, which turned violent last April when Red Shirts derailed a major Asian summit hosted by Thailand and then rioted in Bangkok,leaving two people dead and 123 injured.