Thai PM talks tough, "red shirts" refuse to give in
Thailand`s Prime Minister warned anti-government protesters on Sunday there was a risk of "losses" if they did not get out of a Bangkok shopping district they have closed for a month, but the protesters vowed to stay put.
Bangkok: Thailand`s Prime Minister warned anti-government protesters on Sunday there was a risk of "losses" if they did not get out of a Bangkok shopping district they have closed for a month, but the protesters vowed to stay put.
"From now on, what the government will do may risk clashes and losses, but the government knows what it`s doing. What needs to be done must be done," Abhisit Vejjajiva said in a weekly televised address. It was not clear what he meant by "losses”.
The "red shirt" protesters, supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra who are demanding early elections, said they were staying put, although they agreed to pull back a barrier around 200 meters to give cars access to a big hospital.
Asked by reporters if Abhisit had accepted that, Nattawut Saikua, a protest leader, said: "That`s Abhisit`s problem. If he wants to do anything, we`re prepared for that."
Abhisit was holding an emergency cabinet meeting amid speculation martial law could be imposed to clear the protesters, who have forced ritzy shopping malls and luxury hotels to close.
However, Abhisit appeared to rule that out, saying "this instrument is not needed”.
Martial law would give troops more freedom to act to end the rally -- for example, allowing detention without a court order for seven days.
However, under a state of emergency declared in the capital on April 07, the security forces already have wide-ranging powers, such as being able to ban public gatherings of more than five people.
Some Army commanders, including Army chief Anupong Paochinda, are reluctant to use force because of the inevitable bloodshed. On some evenings, tens of thousands of protesters gather in the occupied shopping district, women and children amongst them.
Anupong has called for a political solution, but hopes of a deal faded when British-born Abhisit rejected a red shirt proposal for an election in three months, saying he would not negotiate in the face of threats.
Force if necessary
On Saturday, Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the government had ordered police to retake the area around Chulalongkorn Hospital, near the Silom business district, to ensure public safety.
"Tomorrow the police chief has to continue clearing the area by all means, from talks to the use of force if necessary," he said.
"We believe the police can handle this. If we have to use force, it does not mean that we want to disperse protesters at Rachaprasong junction, but we just want the hospital area back," he added. Rachaprasong is the centre of the shopping area.
The red shirt demonstrators caused outrage when about 200 of them barged into the hospital grounds on Thursday, looking for soldiers they thought were there preparing an attack.
Their leaders apologised and removed part of the barricade in the area to allow better access to the hospital. They moved the barricade back further on Sunday to let traffic flow to and from several hospital entrances.