Parades across Bangkok bearing blood and letters

BANGKOK, March 17, 2010 (AFP) - Dwindling hordes of protesters fanned across Bangkok on Wednesday, hurling blood at the prime minister's residence and crowding outside Western embassies in a long-odds bid to force snap elections.

The government has stood firm against demands for its resignation pressed by the so-called Red Shirts, loyal to deposed fugitive premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who have been based at a rally ground in the Thai capital since the weekend.

A Buddhist monk (L) and supporters of deposed Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra shout slogans as they protest at the US embassy in Bangkok on March 17, 2010. AFP photo

Police said 50,000 protesters remained on Tuesday evening in the teeming city's government quarter, down from more than 100,000 at Sunday's peak, and even fewer were present for Wednesday's demonstrations.

But the rally still paralysed streets as most of the group left their base by truck, car and motorcycle for the house of premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, where a few threw bags of protesters' blood in a third display of crimson anger.

Government reaction to the symbolic blood protests has been muted, but a minister attached to the prime minister's office on Wednesday said it was "uncivilised".

"Blood is a symbol of violence and hurling it at the house is saddening. The prime minister is speechless over this incident," Satit Wongnhongtaey told reporters.

The prime minister's residence has been hit several times in recent weeks by protesters throwing bags of excrement at the walls.

On Wednesday he flew to Thailand's far south, where a six-year separatist insurgency is raging. Satit said intelligence reports had repeatedly warned of assassination attempts on Abhisit.

The Reds have turned to theatrical shock tactics in their campaign to bring down the Abhisit government, which came to power via a December 2008 parliamentary vote after a controversial court ruling ousted Thaksin's allies.

The mainly poor and rural followers of Thaksin, a billionaire telecoms tycoon who lives abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption, fervently support the populist policies he introduced before his ouster in a 2006 coup.

A smaller group of Red Shirts peeled off from the main crowd to deliver a letter to the British embassy in Bangkok en route to Abhisit's house.

Protest leader Jatuporn Prompan said they wanted to counter false British media reports about the protests. A British embassy official confirmed receipt of the letter.

Most of the Red Shirts at Abhisit's house then peacefully picketed the US embassy, where they delivered a second letter of protest after rumours that US intelligence officers had bugged a phone call of Thaksin.

They said that after intercepting the call, the United States had accused Thaksin of inciting violence. The rumours, which began in Thai media following comments by the deputy prime minister, could not be substantiated.

Thaksin has spoken to the crowd via video link each night, urging them to fight on.

The protesters' bloody spectacle began on Tuesday when they pressed their demand for Abhisit to resign by collecting 300 litres of their own blood, some of which was poured at his office gates.

The protesters massed briefly outside the army barracks housing Abhisit on Monday, but he has twice rejected the crowd's demand to dissolve parliament, saying he must think of the country's interests and not only those of the Reds.

The government has enacted a strict security law to monitor the rally, deploying 50,000 soldiers and police across Bangkok and surrounding provinces on fears of violence by saboteurs.

Police said they expected the demonstration to end within a few days. Red Shirt leaders have been using their rally stage to appeal for more protesters to arrive from the provinces.

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