Thai Protesters Spill Own Blood At Government Gates Red-shirted protesters had threatened to carry out the symbolic act in Bangkok if Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva didn't agree to dissolve the country's parliament by Monday. The government has activated special security provisions just short of martial law.

Thai Protesters Spill Own Blood At Government Gates

Thai soldiers stand guard inside Government House after supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra spilled containers of their own blood at the front gate Tuesday. Wason Wanichakorn/AP hide caption

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Wason Wanichakorn/AP

Thai soldiers stand guard inside Government House after supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra spilled containers of their own blood at the front gate Tuesday.

Wason Wanichakorn/AP

Protesters in Thailand poured their own blood at the gates of government headquarters Tuesday, a vivid symbol of their commitment to fight on for new elections four years after the military deposed a popular prime minister who championed the country's poor.

Thousands of donors lined up by the hundreds in the capital, Bangkok, to give blood. A few teaspoons of blood were drawn from each volunteer and put in plastic water jugs before being delivered to Government House, where Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's office is located. Police made no attempt to stop protest leaders from approaching the main gate to pour out the blood, as national television carried the event live.

Supporters of deposed Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra carry containers of blood as they arrive to pour it out Tuesday at Democrat Party offices in Bangkok. Cristophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Cristophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images

Supporters of deposed Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra carry containers of blood as they arrive to pour it out Tuesday at Democrat Party offices in Bangkok.

Cristophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images

"The blood of the common people is mixing together to fight for democracy," Nattawut Saikua, one of the protest leaders, told cheering supporters. "When Abhisit works in his office, he will be reminded that he is sitting on the people's blood."

More than 100,000 anti-government demonstrators — mostly from the country's rural, agricultural northeast — began arriving over the weekend for demonstrations that so far have been peaceful.

The red-shirted protesters, many carrying pictures of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had threatened to spill the blood if Abhisit didn't agree to dissolve the country's parliament by Monday. But Abhisit has refused the calls for new elections, which Thaksin's allies would almost certainly win.

Sorm Penarawat, a rice farmer from a small village near the northeastern city of Surin, said he came to Bangkok hoping the protest would pave the way for Thaksin's return from exile, even if the ex-premier doesn't return to politics.

"I don't know how much we can change," he told NPR. "But, I hope we can bring back democracy and have a better life."

The government has activated special security provisions just short of martial law and deployed tens of thousands of soldiers in the capital. Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said authorities will allow the protest as long as it remains peaceful.

A majority of protesters appear to have peaceful intentions, he said, adding that authorities were watching closely about 3,000 people "with a history of violence" who have "embedded themselves in the protest."

Protest leaders said more blood would be poured outside the headquarters of the ruling Democrat Party and the prime minister's house if the protest demands were not met. The Red Cross has said the tactic is wasteful and unhygienic and could spread disease if needles are reused. Protest leaders insist they use new needles for each person.

The pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai Party explained in a statement Tuesday that the symbolic gesture reflected the belief that "blood and flesh are the two inseparable components which make up the soul of every Thai and the country."

"To shed one's own blood ... means that the soul of the country is being undermined by the government," read the statement, posted on the protesters' Facebook page.

The "red shirts" say Abhisit illegitimately rose to power at the behest of the military and the traditional ruling class, who were alarmed by Thaksin's popularity.

Under Thaksin, a telecommunications billionaire, Thailand's rural majority enjoyed low-cost health care and price supports for rice, their staple income. Opposition leaders accused him of corruption, and he was ousted by the military in 2006 and has lived in exile since.

Elections in 2008 returned Thaksin supporters to power, but opposition "yellow shirts" drawn mainly from the ranks of Bangkok's educated elite seized the prime minister's compound for three months and occupied Bangkok's two airports for a week.

Thaksin has urged the red shirts by phone to continue their protests in a peaceful manner until their demands are met.

Thailand has been beset by numerous military coups since becoming a constitutional monarchy in 1932. While King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has reigned since 1946, is technically a figurehead, he wields considerable moral authority over the people and the government.

From NPR's Scott Neuman and Michael Sullivan, with additional material from The Associated Press