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18.8.09

At least 30,000 "Red Shirt" protesters rallied in Bangkok today to submit a petition seeking a royal pardon for Thailand's fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, police said.

Organisers say they have collected at least five million signatures in support of Thaksin, who was toppled in a military coup in 2006 and fled the kingdom last August to escape a two-year jail term for corruption.

"I would like to say thank you to my fellow Thais, who have a good attitude towards me and to Thailand," Thaksin said in a speech broadcast live by video to the cheering crowd.

"We are here today to inform our father, the King of every Thai, that we want to see unity and reconciliation," said Thaksin, wearing a trademark red shirt.

Billionaire tycoon Thaksin, 60, then turned to a portrait of Thailand's widely revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the royal family and sang a traditional royal song.

The protest group would submit their petition to the royal offices in Bangkok's Grand Palace in the afternoon, organisers said.

Police Major General Vichai Sangkapai confirmed that 30,000 people had joined the rally so far and that 1,500
uniformed officers had been deployed to secure the rally

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