Thai protesters demand more talks before quitting

Thai anti-government protesters have demanded more talks before agreeing to end two months of protests.

Bangkok: Thai anti-government protesters demanded on Thursday more talks before agreeing to end two months of protests that have stifled the economy, scared away tourists and sparked Thailand`s deadliest political clashes in 18 years.

The red-shirted supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra have broadly welcomed Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva`s five-point national reconciliation plan to end a crisis in which 27 people have been killed and more than 1,000 wounded.

But thousands remained on Bangkok`s rain-slicked streets, barricaded in a 3 sq-km (1.2 sq-mile) stretch of upscale department stores, luxury hotels and expensive apartments, escaping tropical rains under a network of makeshift tents.

"We still have problems with many issues," Nattawut Saikua, a protest leader, told reporters. They have yet to agree to Abhisit`s offer for a November 14 election, he added.

The mostly rural and urban poor protesters have demanded immediate elections Thaksin`s allies would be well placed to win, and say the ruling coalition lacks a popular mandate after coming to power in a controversial parliamentary vote 17 months ago.

They chafe at what they see as the military and unelected royalist aristocracy meddling in politics, and targeted the shopping district as a symbol of wealth out of reach to rural masses in a country with one of Asia`s widest income disparities.

Some question the sincerity of Abhisit`s peace overture.

The United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, better known as the "red shirts", want to see the outcome of a ruling coalition meeting on Friday before determining their next move, added Nattawut, a former spokesman of the now-defunct Thaksin-backed People`s Power Party.

Protest leaders are demanding a specific date for dissolution of parliament -- a technicality analysts said was likely being used as an excuse to negotiate better terms or to help protest leaders escape possible terrorism charges once the rally ends.

Abhisit said dissolution would take place between September 15 and 30 under laws requiring Parliament be dissolved 45 to 60 days before an election. His Democrat Party made the same statement on Wednesday.

But if protesters don`t leave, a November election may not be possible at all, he added.

Protest leaders remained sceptical.

"The reconciliation plan is very vague and Abhisit`s promise is slippery. We have to make sure what we are getting before we declare victory," said Weng Tojirakarn, another protest leader.

Bureau Report

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