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Health fear as Thai democracy protesters spill blood

Thai Red Shirt protesters poured jugs of their own blood at the gate of the government headquarters in a symbolic demonstration to underline their call for new elections. Tens of thousands of red shirts marched on the Thai parliament, with the blood donated by supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.  Police let protest leaders go up to the white iron front gate and pour out the blood, which oozed under the gate as national television broadcast the images live.

Yesterday, thousands formed long lines to have their blood drawn by nurses, after their leaders vowed to collect 264 gallons (1,000 litres) — to spill at Government House and other key buildings.  Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has not been to his office at Government House since the protests started on Friday. If the government continues to refuse to resign, the Red Shirts say they will take more donations on Wednesday and this time throw the blood at the Prime Minister's house. "The blood of the common people is mixing together to fight for democracy," Nattawut Saikua, one of the protest leaders, told Associated Press news service. "When Abhisit works in his office, he will be reminded that he is sitting on the people's blood."

The Red Shirts are mainly backers of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and other activists who were against the 2006 military coup that ousted him for alleged corruption and abuse of power. They believe Abhisit came to power illegitimately after the army and traditional ruling class who were alarmed by Thaksin's popularity, pulled strings. A medical clean-up team wearing white coats, facemasks and rubber gloves was sent by the government to hose down the area minutes after the blood was spilled. Medics warned that the protest was unhygienic and risked spreading disease if infected blood splashed healthy bystanders.

Government spokesman Panitan Watanayagorn said the protest would be allowed as long as it stays peaceful. "If they want to throw it and have a photo op and have us clean it up later, I think it's fine," Panitan told a briefing of foreign media. He said health authorities were looking into whether "throwing blood on the streets violates health measures." The Red Cross slammed the "blood sacrifice" tactic as wasteful and unhygienic saying that diseases like hepatitis and HIV-AIDS can be spread if needles used to draw the blood are reused. Protest leaders insisted they would use new needles for each person.

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children