Bangkok: Thailand`s Army warned Red Shirt anti-government protesters on Thursday that "time is running out" to leave their rally site in Bangkok`s commercial heart before a likely crackdown.
But the mostly poor and rural Reds, who have paralysed an area of the capital that is home to five-star hotels and major shopping centres, remained defiant and ruled out talks with the authorities until the military withdraws.
Tensions remained high in Bangkok after overnight scuffles between the red-shirted demonstrators, who are seeking immediate elections, and hundreds of rival pro-government protesters calling for the Reds to go home.
The supporters of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who include local residents and business owners, confronted the Reds and threw bottles, while some of the anti-government protesters hurled stones, bottles and firecrackers.
One foreign tourist was reported to have been slightly injured.
The red-clad movement has ruled out immediate talks with the government, despite the threat of "decisive" action by the Army.
"We don`t want you to risk your lives. If there is a clash you could be hurt by stray bullets," said Army spokesman Sunsern Kaewkumnerd. "Your time is running out. Please leave the area."
Sunsern said there were currently 6,000 of the red-shirted protesters at the site, down from 14,000 Wednesday evening.
But there was no air of compromise as the protesters dug in, following street clashes in Bangkok earlier this month that left 25 people dead.
The Reds have fortified their rally base in central Bangkok with home-made barricades made from bamboo poles and piles of car tyres.
"When there are guns pointed at our heads, we cannot talk," said a Reds leader, Weng Tojirakarn. "The easiest way (to resolve the crisis) is to dissolve Parliament and then we will all go home."
Piles of sharpened bamboo sticks and broken paving stones have been stockpiled, triggering fears of new confrontations with security forces who are threatening to use tear gas and live fire if necessary.
The Reds are seeking immediate elections to replace the government, which it accuses of being elitist and undemocratic.
The United States urged both sides to seek a peaceful resolution to the weeks-long crisis, which has shut down the Thai capital`s retail and hotel heartland, worsening the damage to the economy of the tourist destination.