Thai 'red shirts' stand firm, no crackdown yet

An explosion near the home of a senior member of one of the ruling coalition parties injured eight people as tension remains high.

Thai 'red shirts' stand firm, no crackdown yet


Anti-government protesters in Thailand fortified their encampment in central Bangkok after the government rejected their compromise offer on early elections but a rumoured crackdown by troops overnight did not happen.

There was no violence in the shopping area where at least 8,000 people were still singing and listening to speeches at dawn on Monday, but an explosion near the home of a senior member of one of the ruling coalition parties injured eight people.

Jatuporn Prompan, a "red shirt" protest leader, said an appeal for supporters to turn out in force probably thwarted any crackdown.

"We had stepped up security with more guards patrolling throughout the night and many people were awake with us to make sure the army couldn't crack down. We received intelligence it would be done this morning, but thankfully we prevented that."

"We will continue to fight until our victory is achieved," he added. "We don't want to talk to the government because there is nothing to talk about. We cannot agree and the only way is for Abhisit to dissolve the house now."

The stalemate has rekindled fears of more unrest and a heavier toll on Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy as more retailers shut their doors and tourist numbers dwindle. At least 26 people have been killed and hundreds injured in the violence.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he would scale back the government's projection of 4.5 percent economic growth this year.

COUNTRYSİDE PROTESTS

Protest leaders called on their supporters in the countryside to confront the army and police and their backers responded by blockading police convoys in at least three areas.

Hundreds of protesters in Pathum Thani province north of Bangkok dispersed peacefully after they succeeded in stopping a convoy of hundreds of policemen from entering the capital to reinforce the security forces there.

Similar action to prevent police movements was reported by Thai media in northeastern Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani.

Coming after red shirts stopped a troop train in the north last week, the blockade raises questions over whether Abhisit can exert full control over rebellious parts of Thailand as the deadly protests enter a seventh week.

SOLIDARITY WITH MILITARY

Abhisit, speaking on Sunday, flatly rejected a red shirt offer to call elections in 30 days and hold a vote 60 days later.

"There must not be a precedent that allows intimidation to bring about political change," Abhisit said in his weekly television broadcast alongside army chief Anupong Paochinda in a show of solidarity with the military.

"Thirty days is out of question. I don't think this problem can be solved within 30 days."

Some members of his coalition government have suggested that parliament be dissolved in six months rather than the nine offered by Abhisit, but so far they are sticking with him.

SENIOR PARTY MEMBER ATTACKED

An explosive was detonated late on Sunday at a police post near the home of Banharn Silapa-Archa, chief adviser to the Chart Thai Pattana Party, wounding at least eight people, a police official said. It was not clear what the explosive was.

Banharn is a former prime minister and a politician who has switched allegiance regularly throughout his career. Protesters have called for his party and other governing coalition partners to abandon Abhisit's Democrats to force fresh elections.

The army has had to deal with a rogue military element that supports the protesters and is allied with former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in 2006 coup and sentenced to prison for corruption after fleeing the country.

Anupong acknowledged for the first time some retired and active officers had joined the protest movement, but played down signs of a split in the armed forces. "Some of those involved in the deadly attacks are still in the military," he said. "But on the division, any big organisation could have that."

The army warned on Saturday it would forcibly disperse thousands of red shirts in their encampment stretching 3 square-km (1.2 sq. miles) in Bangkok's main shopping district, but it wants to first separate militants from women and children.

Residents of the capital, weary of the red-shirt tactics, have formed a "multi-coloured" protest group that has drawn thousands to its rallies in the capital.

Abhisit's six-party coalition is under pressure from royalist and upper-class Thais to rebuff demands from the mostly poor red shirts.

The government is stepping up accusations the red shirts want to overthrow the monarchy, which the protesters deny. The 82-year-old king is deeply revered but has appeared rarely in public since entering hospital on Sept. 19.

The red shirts say British-born and Oxford-educated Abhisit came to power illegitimately in December 2008, heading a coalition the military cobbled together after courts dissolved a pro-Thaksin party that led the previous government.

Reuters
 

Last Mod: 26 Nisan 2010, 11:57
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