BANGKOK: Red Shirt demonstrators poured onto Bangkok’s stifling concrete streets Tuesday (Aug 22) to welcome home their hero Thaksin Shinawatra, more than a decade after they brought the capital to a standstill with mass protests in his name.
Hundreds travelled through the night from the northeastern provinces, where the former prime minister still commands deep loyalty, to dance and sing as Thaksin returned to the kingdom for the first time since 2008.
A few were rewarded with a glimpse of the 74-year-old as he emerged briefly at Don Mueang airport before being whisked off to jail for criminal convictions passed in his absence.
Some wore elaborate outfits, older women with immaculately made-up faces crinkling as the heat and their enthusiasm increased, and all were decked out in red – the signature colour of Thaksin’s supporters.
“I just want to see his face,” 57-year-old retiree Panee Lobtong told AFP after taking an overnight bus from northern Chiang Mai.
Behind her, red signs proclaimed “Thaksin Shinawatra, the PM in our hearts” and celebrated his “return to the motherland”.
But Chawang Kaewsiri, 74, who travelled with her, was worried Thaksin could face years in prison.
“Anything could happen,” he said.