Thai protesters target 'hearts and minds' of Bangkok

Activists vowed on Friday to press ahead with anti-government protests, preparing for a new drive to win over Bangkok's politically powerful middle classes.

Thai protesters target 'hearts and minds' of Bangkok

Anti-government protesters Friday rejected a conditional offer of talks by Thailand's premier -- saying they would continue their struggle until they had toppled his administration.

The "Red Shirts" rallied for a sixth day in support of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra with leaders of the dwindling Bangkok protest vowing there would be no negotiations until the dissolution of the lower house.

"I am willing to talk but it should not be under this climate of intimidation," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in an interview on an army-run national television channel.

But leaders of the largely rural-based Red Shirts said they would hound Abhisit until he bows to their demands, beseeching supporters at the rally to remain and calling for class war.

"The Red Shirts are not refusing to negotiate but the prime minister has to dissolve the house first and all parties have to sign a pact saying they will respect the result of elections so the country can move ahead," Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan told the crowd.

The next polls must be held by December 2011.

"The undecided"

The demonstrators remained at their base in Bangkok's historic heart, dancing to live folk music, listening to fiery speeches decrying the military's intervention in politics and planning Saturday's city-wide recruitment march.

The "red-shirt" protesters plan to fan out across the city of 15 million people on motorcycles and pickup trucks on Saturday, handing out leaflets and calling on urban sympathisers to join their push to oust the government.

"We want to win the hearts of Bangkok people," Nattawut Saikua, one of the protest leaders, told Reuters.

"We have already proven to them that we are genuine and non-violent. We want them to help us topple this hypocritical government."

The mainly rural supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown in a coup and later convicted of graft, are seeking to lure Bangkok middle classes, civil servants and rank-and-file soldiers and policemen to their battle against the government and influential establishment elite.

"There is no money at my farm. At least here, we are doing something important, and I'm not paid to be here," said Supalak Pumarin, from Udon Thani province, who, like many "red shirts", refutes common claims the masses were hired.

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 19 Mart 2010, 15:18

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