Thai protesters welcome PM's offer, demand clear date

Abhisit proposed holding new elections on Nov. 14 in exchange for the Red Shirt protesters dismantling the camp they have set up in the middle of the Thai capital.

Thai protesters welcome PM's offer, demand clear date

Thai protesters said Tuesday they "welcome" a proposed compromise to end the violent political crisis that has paralyzed central Bangkok for nearly two months, but asked for more details on the plan before ending their protest.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva proposed holding new elections on Nov. 14 in exchange for the Red Shirt protesters dismantling the camp they have set up in the middle of the Thai capital.

The Red Shirt leaders met Tuesday to discuss the five-point plan and "unanimously welcomed the reconciliation process," said Veera Musigapong, a protest leader.

He did not say, however, when they would evacuate the streets of Bangkok, and other leaders called on the government to clarify some details of the plan, including the election date.

"We want to negotiate. All of us unanimously agree that we must enter into negotiations and we want to save a lot of lives. However, we want a little bit of sincerity," said Sean Boonpracong, a protest spokesman.

The protesters said they wanted clarification on the timeframe for the election, asked for unspecified confidence-building gestures from the government and demanded the monarchy not be used as a weapon in the confrontation.

The government, in recent days, has accused the protesters of being anti-monarchy, a weighty accusation in a nation where the king is beloved and disparaging the royal family is a crime.

"Stop using the issue of overthrowing the monarchy. You are dragging (down) the institution that is loved by Thais for political reasons. Stop that," Sean said.

Protest leaders, who had demanded the government call a poll immediately, said they had agreed to enter into a reconciliation process proposed by Abhisit but took issue with his offer for a general election on Nov. 14.

They said Abhisit did not have authority to set an election date and urged him instead to propose a timetable for dissolving parliament.

The timing of elections is the most contentious issue in the plan floated by Abhisit on Monday to end a standoff in which 27 people were killed last month and nearly 1,000 wounded.

"We have agreed unanimously to enter the reconciliation process. We don't want any more loss of lives," said Veera.

"We are suspicious about the timeframe, which is within the power of the election commission and not the prime minister," he told thousands of red-shirted supporters in their fortified encampment in Bangkok's main commercial district.

"Vote timing critical"


The red shirts broadly back former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist multimillionaire who lives in self-imposed exile after his ouster in a 2006 military coup and subsequent conviction for graft.

The timing of when Abhisit dissolves parliament and holds an election is critical. Analysts say both sides want to be in power in September for a reshuffle of the powerful military and police forces, and passing of the national budget.

If Thaksin's camp prevails and is governing at the time of the military reshuffle, analysts expect big changes including the ousting of generals allied with Thailand's royalist elite, a prospect royalists fear could diminish the power of the monarchy.

"We want Abhisit to come back to us with a clear parliamentary dissolution date instead of an election date and we will meet and consider it again," another protest leader, Jatuporn Prompan, told Reuters.

The protesters say Abhisit, who is backed by the royalist establishment, lacks a popular mandate after coming to power in a parliamentary vote 17 months ago heading a coalition cobbled together with military help.

Abhisit had previously offered to dissolve parliament in December, about a year before his term ends.

In a televised statement on Monday, Abhisit set five broad conditions for reconciliation that must be agreed before any election.

The first was that the revered Thai monarchy should not be dragged into politics or "violated". That follows government accusations some "red shirts" aim to overthrow the monarchy.

The other proposals call for reforms to address social injustice -- a key red shirt grievance -- an independent body to monitor media bias, an inquiry into recent political violence and reforms that could include constitutional amendments and a review of a five-year ban on politicians allied with Thaksin.


Agencies

Last Mod: 04 Mayıs 2010, 16:49
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