A peace plan put forward by Thailand's prime minister to end weeks of deadly protests was in limbo on Friday as the government and protesters squabbled over details, including a proposed early election in November.
Far from packing up their camp in 3 sq kms (1.2 sq miles) of an upmarket commercial district in central Bangkok, the "red shirt" protesters said they would bus in hundreds more supporters from their northeastern stronghold to bolster their defences.
Late on Thursday, their numbers had swollen to as many as 9,000, a Reuters reporter estimated, although numbers usually grow during the day from the 1,000 to 2,000 that typically spend the night behind the fortified barricades.
The Thai stock market, which jumped 4.4 percent on Tuesday in reaction to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's reconciliation plan, has fallen since, although other Asian markets also dropped as worries grew about the fallout from euro zone debt problems.
Abhisit said he would dissolve parliament in the second half of September ahead of an election on Nov. 14 as part of a plan to end a crisis in which 27 people have died and more than 1,000 been wounded in clashes.
But that failed to convince the "red shirt" protesters who have refused to budge from the commercial district, where posh malls and luxury hotels have been forced to close their doors since April 3.
A local business group put total losses in the area since then at about 174 million baht ($5.4 million) a day.
"We still have problems with many issues," Nattawut Saikua, a protest leader, said on Thursday, adding the "red shirts" had not yet agreed to the Nov. 14 election date.
Nattawut questioned whether Abhisit even had the support of the government's traditional backers after the "yellow shirt" group, which broadly represents the royalist elite and the middle classes, condemned the plan.
The "yellow shirts", whose eight-day occupation of Bangkok's airport in 2008 helped undermine a Thaksin-allied government, said Abhisit should resign if he could not enforce the law and end the occupation of the shopping district.
The "red shirts", who had demanded immediate elections when their latest protest rally started in mid-March, say the ruling coalition lacks a popular mandate after coming to power in a controversial parliamentary vote 17 months ago.
Protest leaders are demanding a specific date for dissolution of parliament, a technicality analysts said was probably an excuse to negotiate a better deal, including a guarantee protest leaders would not face terrorism charges once the rally ends.
Abhisit said dissolution would take place between Sept. 15 and 30 under laws requiring that parliament be dissolved 45 to 60 days before an election. But if the protesters remained on the streets, he would not dissolve parliament at all, he added.
The "red shirts" also want the government to lift a state of emergency and remove troops near the protest site before they leave, requests the government is unlikely to meet.
Analysts claim both sides want to be in power in September for a reshuffle of senior officers in the powerful military and police, and for the passing of the national budget.
ReutersLast Mod: 07 Mayıs 2010, 13:18