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Thai Red Shirts rally in support of prime minister

Supporters of Thailand’s government, known as Red Shirts, rallied outside Bangkok on Saturday. At a Red Shirt gathering in November, there was a shooting and five people died.

Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Supporters of Thailand’s government, known as Red Shirts, rallied outside Bangkok on Saturday. At a Red Shirt gathering in November, there was a shooting and five people died.

BANGKOK — Tens of thousands of supporters of Thailand’s beleaguered prime minister rallied Saturday on the outskirts of Bangkok, a move aimed at countering months of antigovernment protests and a spate of legal challenges that could bring down Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration.

The last time progovernment ‘‘Red Shirts’’ gathered en masse, at a stadium in the capital in November, shooting broke out nearby and five people were killed.

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The Red Shirts have avoided rallying in Bangkok since then to avert bloodshed, and the current three-day gathering was held dozens of miles from downtown Bangkok.

Thailand has been shaken by more than five months of antigovernment protests. The demonstrations snowballed after the ruling party tried to ram an amnesty bill through Parliament that would have allowed Yingluck’s brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown by the army in a 2006 coup, to return from self-imposed exile and avoid serving a jail sentence for corruption.

Although the number of antigovernment protesters in Bangkok has dwindled dramatically in recent weeks, Yingluck and her government remain highly vulnerable to legal threats, which her supporters say have intensified since street protests failed to unseat her.

Most analysts predict her administration will fall in a ‘‘judicial coup’’ because Thailand’s courts and independent state agencies are widely seen as biased against the Shinawatra political machine.

Speaking to a crowd of tens of thousands, Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan said antigovernment protesters and the nation’s courts are trying to take power without elections. “We will fight if the country becomes undemocratic,’’ he said.

‘‘The Thai people have reached the point of no hope, because we are now aware of the repeated deceptions,’’ he said in comments to reporters. ‘‘What we are most concerned about, that we want to warn all sides against, is a civil war. . . . It will happen if there is a coup and democracy is stolen.’’

Last week in the northeastern province of Udon Thani, about 1,000 Red Shirt members took part in martial arts training that organizers said was aimed at protecting democracy and the elected government.

Yingluck is currently serving as a caretaker prime minister whose powers were automatically reduced when she called February elections, dissolving the lower house of Parliament. That move was meant to ease the political crisis, but it only intensified.

Although elections were held, the poll was annulled last month by the Constitutional Court. No date has been set for a new vote.

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