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June 28, 2017

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Supporters mark Thaksin's birthday across Thailand

BANGKOK -- Thousands of supporters of Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra gathered at temples across the country on Sunday to celebrate his 60th birthday, police said.

Around 60 temples were expected to hold Buddhist ceremonies in his honor, with the largest taking place at Kaew Fah temple in central Nonthaburi province.

"More than 10,000 people have gathered at the temple since the early morning," Police Colonel Songsak Soisuwan told AFP. "We have around 100 police officers taking care of security. So far the situation is peaceful," he said.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in September 2006 and is now living abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption, later made a phone-in address to Kaew Fah to thank his followers.

"I believe the good karma we make today will bring me back to serve the nation soon," he told them.

The ceremony, at which the red-clad crowds gave alms to over 100 monks as part of the Buddhist tradition of "merit-making," was presided over by Thaksin's brother-in-law and former Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.

"What we did today was not violating any laws or making any trouble. Everything was done by groups of people who love Thaksin," he told the crowds, adding that the large turn-out was a 'big surprise.'

Thaksin also marked the occasion by launching accounts on the social networking Web sites Twitter and Facebook, according to his close aide and former lawyer Noppadon Pattama.

"It's another channel for Thaksin to communicate with his supporters. They can sign up to wish him happy birthday or monitor his movements," he said.

In a note posted on his Twitter page, under the user name 'Thaksinlive,' Thaksin said his birthday wishes were 'to see reconciliation happen' in the country and for Thailand's king to have a long, healthy life.

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