Thai troops to besiege protest site as poll plan shelved

Thailand's army warned it would seal off a protest site in the capital with armoured vehicles.

Thai troops to besiege protest site as poll plan shelved

Thailand's army warned Thursday it would seal off a protest site in the capital with armoured vehicles, turning up the heat on defiant "Red Shirts" as the premier shelved a plan for early elections.

The army will also bring in armoured vehicles to bolster checkpoints, stopping any protesters from entering the area, and urged businesses on roads leading into the protesters' 3 sq-km (1.2 sq-mile) fortified encampment to close on Friday.

"In an operation to step up pressure and limit the protest area, we will bring in armoured vehicles to help protect officers from those militants among protesters," army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd told reporters.

The mostly rural and urban poor protesters remained defiant, refusing to leave and challenging the government from behind medieval-like walls made from tyres and wooden staves soaked in kerosene and surrounded by razor wire.

"We urge that our supporters come and help us here because the more people we have, the harder it is for them to hurt us," Nattawut Saikua, a protest leader, told cheering supporters.

"We are ready for any attempt to forcibly disperse us. Our guards are ready to protect the site."

About 10,000 of the red-shirted protesters ignored a midnight deadline to disperse after authorities delayed plans to cut power and water to the area following outcry from residents.

"Election proposal cancelled"

Protesters say Abhisit lacks a popular mandate after coming to power in a controversial parliamentary vote 17 months ago with support from the military.

The prime minister on Wednesday cancelled a proposed November 14 election under his "national reconciliation" plan and called off talks with the protesters, raising speculation of a crackdown.

But he faced criticism for announcing he would cut supplies to the area and then reversing the threat hours later.

Both sides appear to be running out of options, raising the risk of a violent confrontation and flummoxing investors in one of Asia's most promising emerging markets.

Disparate views among protest leaders -- from radical former communists to academics and aspiring lawmakers -- make it difficult to reach consensus. Many face criminal charges for defying an emergency decree and some face terrorism charges carrying a maximum penalty of death.

Several harbour political ambitions and need to appease rank-and-file supporters. Others fear ending the protest now would be a one-way ticket to jail. Some hardliners advocate stepping up the protests to win the fight once and for all.

"Most people want this to end but they are sceptical because the government cannot guarantee our safety," Korbkaew Pikulthong, another protest leader, told Reuters. "The problem is some of us face severe charges and the government shows no inclination to be fair to us. A few want to fight on because we have come so far."

The red-shirted protesters, mostly supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a 2006 coup, have said they would only disperse if a deputy prime minister faces criminal charges over a deadly April clash between troops and protesters.


Agencies

Last Mod: 13 Mayıs 2010, 12:37
Add Comment