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Thai troops tighten security in Bangkok ahead of protest

By the CNN Wire Staff
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Thai military stations about 1,500 troops along a Bangkok road ahead of anticipated clashes
  • Troops deployed about 3 a.m. Monday (4 p.m. Sunday ET) to Bangkok's Silom Road
  • Protesters demanding PM dissolve government, hold new elections and leave country
  • At least 23 people killed in deadly police-protester clashes earlier this month

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- Amid anticipation of renewed clashes with protesters demanding that the prime minister dissolve the government, hold new elections and leave the country, the Thai military stationed about 1,500 troops along a Bangkok road early Monday, military sources told CNN.

The military is tightening security ahead of a planned rally by the protesters, called "Red Shirts" for their clothing. The troops were deployed about 3 a.m. Monday (4 p.m. Sunday ET) to Bangkok's Silom Road. The road is where offices for some of the nation's largest companies are located and is considered a city financial center.

Red Shirt leader Nattawut Saikua has announced the group will hold a rally on Tuesday near Silom Road. The group is occupying a nearby area near shopping mega-malls, and Nattawut said the crowd might grow large enough to reach the business center.

The government and military said it would take action to prevent the Red Shirts from entering the Silom Road area.

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"They are not allowed to march anywhere," Col. Sansern Kaewkumnerd, spokesman for the government's Center of Resolution for Emergency Situation, said Sunday. "If they mobilize protesters, we will mobilize officers to match their number."

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Meanwhile, a pro-government group said it would hold "our biggest rally ever" if the government fails to end the protests within a week.

"Be prepared for a big and long rally," said Jumlong Srimuang of the "Yellow Shirts" group, or the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD). "We will not disperse if the nation and the institution are still in danger." The Yellow Shirts met on Sunday, a gathering of hundreds of people.

The Red Shirts are supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 2006. They have been demanding that current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolve parliament and call new elections. Red Shirts leader Weng Tojirakarn has said the group wants Abhisit to leave the country. The Yellow Shirts supports Abhisit and opposes Thaksin.

At least 25 people were killed in deadly police-protester clashes earlier this month, according to the Bangkok Emergency Medical Service. More than 850 others were wounded in the clashes, the service said.

Last week, Thailand's election commission -- an independent government body that oversees races and can disqualify candidates -- recommended the dissolution of Abhisit's party. The commission accused Abhisit's Democrat Party of accepting an $8 million campaign donation from a private company and of mishandling funds the commission allocated to it.

The commission's recommendation will now be considered by the country's attorney general's office. If it agrees, Thailand's Constitution Court will ultimately issue a ruling. If the 64-year-old party is dissolved, Abhisit and its other senior leaders will be banned from politics for five years. The process can take up to six months.

On Friday, Abhisit handed security operations entirely to the country's military after three protest leaders escaped from a hotel that was surrounded by security forces.

"The important problem now is the terrorism," Abhisit said, referring to what authorities describe as a terrorist group mixing among the protesters. He spoke in a televised broadcast following three days of silence amid the tumult in his country.

Abhisit also acknowledged that "police forces were trying to capture some of the Red Shirt leaders, but it was not successful."

The prime minister weeks ago announced a state of emergency in Bangkok and nearby areas.

CNN's Kocha Olarn contributed to this report.