Rowdy rally forces Thaksin to cancel meeting in LA
Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was forced to cancel an appearance at a red-shirt gathering in Los Angeles on Sunday by a rally attended by hundreds of protesters, including yellow shirts.The fugitive ex-premier is travelling around the US after successfully obtaining a visitor's visa.
Thai supporters of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) have staged protests in San Francisco, New York City and Houston, when he visited red-shirt admirers.
In Los Angeles, the former PM was scheduled to hold "An Easy Talk with Thaksin" for local media and red-shirt supporters at the Thailand Plaza food court on Hollywood Street.
However, PAD followers from the city and as far away as Las Vegas and Colorado assembled on both sides of the street in front of the venue. They held up signs with malicious messages like "Thug-sin, go to hell, go to jail", "Convicted fugitive", and "Wanted criminal". Some also screamed insults.
The yellow shirts were joined by many other Americans at their rally against Thaksin.
A report by pro-yellow ASTV Manager Online said that at one point the crowd swelled to 2,000, but there was no independent source confirming of the size of the turnout.
Some red shirts, including leader Daranee Kritboonyalai, who is wanted in connection with the 2010 unrest and riots in Thailand, were seen nearby but no clashes were reported.
The protest went on for hours. At about 9pm, Sompong Amornwiwat, a key figure from the ruling Pheu Thai Party and a close Thaksin aide, said at the red-shirt event that the former PM would not attend due to security reasons, on advice from local police, according to the Siam Town US news website.
Thaksin, who fled abroad in late 2008 to avoid a two-year jail term for a land deal ruled to be an abuse of power, phoned in to apologise for failing to speak in person. He said he could not enter the venue due to the big group of picketers outside.
The ex-leader is expected to stay in the US for a week and hold talks with Thai expatriates and some American politicians, his legal adviser Noppadon Pattama has said.
Suriyasai Katasila, coordinator of the Green Politics Group and a key figure in the yellow-shirt movement, praised the protesters yesterday, saying they served not only to enact "social punishment" on the wanted ex-leader but also to humiliate the US authorities for slighting their extradition treaty with Thailand.
"There will be more and more of these social punishment measures until Thaksin enters the judicial process. I thank the Thais in the US for showing their power so that the world will know the truth," Suriyasai said.
"There are attempts to distort the facts by saying that Thaksin faces political cases although in fact he committed criminal offences," he said.