|Red shirt protesters have vowed to keep up their bid to topple the government [EPA]
Followers of Thailand's opposition "red shirt" movement have marched through the streets of Bangkok carrying coffins in mourning for protesters killed in clashes with security forces over the weekend.
The parade on Monday came as red shirt leaders vowed to maintain pressure on the Thai government to stand down, after bloody street fighting late on Saturday left 21 people dead and hundreds more injured.
"Although the road is rough and full of obstacles, it's our duty to honour the dead by bringing democracy to this country"
red shirt leader
Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay, reporting from Bangkok, said the protesters viewed the march through the Thai capital as a way to "show the residents of this city, the Thai people, what the government did to them".
He said they were also expected to try to take the coffins to the home of the Thai prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva – the man whose resignation they are demanding.
Abhisit has based himself at a top security army barracks during the escalating crisis and is not expected to be at his home.
The coffins are not thought to contain actual human remains, with autopsies due to be carried out on Monday on the bodies of the dead protesters to determine how they were killed.
Speaking to protesters from a makeshift stage late on Sunday, Jatuporn Prompan, a red shirt leader, said Abhisit's hands had been "bloodied", and declared that the red shirts would "never negotiate with murderers".
|Protesters captured several army vehicles during Saturday's clashes [AFP]
"Although the road is rough and full of obstacles, it's our duty to honour the dead by bringing democracy to this country," he said.
Saturday's clashes was the worst political violence seen in the Thai capital in almost two decades and left four police among the dead.
The violence has prompted dozens of countries to issue travel warnings advising their citizens to avoid Thailand, prompting fears of major losses for Thailand's tourist-dependent economy.
At Monday's opening, Thailand's benchmark share index was down 3.88 per cent, although it began to recover slightly as trading picked up.
Saturday's clashes broke out as security forces tried to clear protesters from an area of central Bangkok they have occupied for more than a month.
Security forces and protesters later pulled back, leaving a trail of bullet casings, pools of blood and shattered army vehicles in what is normally one of Bangkok's main tourist areas.
Some of the heaviest fighting occurred near the Khao San road area, popular with foreign backpackers.
Among the 21 killed was Hiro Muramoto, a Japanese cameraman working for the Reuters news agency.
Reuters has said the circumstances of his death were under review.
The red shirts, many of them supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister ousted in a 2006 coup, are seeking to force Abhisit to resign and call fresh elections.
They say the prime minister, who came to power following a parliamentary vote in late 2008, is illegitimate.
The red shirts see Abhisit as a symbol of the ruling elite they say were behind the 2006 coup that removed Thaksin from power.
Following the clashes Bangkok's streets were mostly calm on Sunday, although tensions remained high with no sign that either the protesters or the government were willing to compromise.
Red shirt leaders have said they will not negotiate on their key demands, while Abhisit and his ministers have remained tight-lipped about their plans.
In one possible sign of movement, however, the Bangkok Post on Monday reported that the government may be willing to consider an offer to dissolve parliament in six months – three months earlier than Abhisit's most recent proposal – to pave the way for new national elections.
The plan is being seen by some in the government as a possible route towards defusing the crisis, the Post reported.
"They believe an announcement by the prime minister on a timeline for him to dissolve parliament - regardless of how the [red shirts react] - might be the best way for him to hang on to his job," the report said.
On Sunday a Thai government spokesman told reporters that a line of communication with the red shirts was open, but conditions were not right for formal talks.
The government announced a state of emergency on April 7 forbidding public gatherings of more than five people.
"As long as they are still breaking the law, that makes it difficult," spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said.