Thai PM in rush to get answer from protesters

Abhisit told "red shirt" protesters, he wanted a reply within a day or two to his proposal to hold an early election on Nov. 14.

Thai PM in rush to get answer from protesters

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday told "red shirt" protesters, he wanted a reply within a day or two to his proposal to hold an early election on Nov. 14.

The "red shirts" have been demonstrating in the capital since mid-March, at first demanding immediate elections, and have been camped out in a posh shopping area since April 3, forcing malls and luxury hotels to close at huge cost to the local economy.

"No matter how the political situation evolves, I affirm that the government will stick to the reconciliation plan and we have already started the process," said Abhisit, who does not have to call an election until the end of 2011.

But he also said the deal he proposed on May 3 would be off if violence continued, and seemed to rule out negotiations.

"All parties have to cooperate and there should be no violence. If we can do that, the election will happen. If not, it won't happen," he said in a weekly televised address.

His proposals call for reforms to address social injustice, a big "red shirt" grievance; an independent body to ensure unbiased reporting by the media; a committee to investigate violence; and political reform, possibly including constitutional amendments.

The "red shirts", drawn mainly from the rural and urban poor, want Abhisit to set a precise date for dissolving parliament and want a say in any constitutional changes.

Nattawut Saikua, a protest leader, told a news conference the "red shirts" would not be rushed.

"We don't want to slow down the process and we know people are waiting for this. We are working on our plan," he said.

"For the reconciliation process, in my opinion, the easiest part would be the government dissolving parliament and the red shirts ending the protest."

They have promised a response by May 15 -- too late for Abhisit.

"There should be a clear answer today or tomorrow so that we can move ahead," the prime minister said. "As for my proposal, it's non-negotiable and nobody can propose conditions."

"Violence"

Two policemen were killed and 13 people wounded in gun and grenade attacks late on Friday and early on Saturday, the latest violence linked to the protests that have crippled Bangkok and scared off tourists. More than 1,000 people have been wounded during the protests.

Bbut, the red shirts denied involvement in the attacks.

Abhisit said that certain groups disagreed with his proposals and he named Major-General Khattiya Sawasdipol, also known as Seh Daeng, a renegade soldier in the "red shirt" camp. He stopped short of blaming Khattiya for the latest violence.

"I can say that Seh Daeng doesn't want my plan and doesn't want the protest to end. He has said clearly that he is trying to contact red shirt leaders in the provinces to object against central leaders joining in the reconciliation process," he said.

Before the killings, the temperature had been cooling after a week of calm following Abhisit's peace plan.

The "red shirts" support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by the military in 2006. They say the ruling coalition has no mandate, having come to power in a parliamentary vote 17 months ago that they claim was orchestrated by the military.

Thousands remain in the 3 sq km (1.2 sq mile) camp, and Reuters reporters estimated that at least 10,000 were there on Sunday, more than usual even for a weekend morning.

At one point, 40 or more relatives of people who died in the first flare-up of violence on April 10 came together on the stage, some weeping as they held up portraits of the dead and appealed for donations to help pay for funerals.

Agencies

Last Mod: 09 Mayıs 2010, 16:58
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