Thai protesters refuse to quit, peace plan in limbo

The government and protesters squabbled over details of the peace plan put forward by Thailand`s PM.

Bangkok: A peace plan put forward by Thailand`s Prime Minister to end weeks of deadly protests was in limbo on Friday as the government and protesters squabbled over details, including a proposed early election in November.

Far from packing up their fortified camp, which sprawls across 3 sq km (1.2 sq miles) of an upmarket commercial district in central Bangkok, the "red shirt" protesters said they would bus in more supporters from their northeastern stronghold.

"We can rotate people in and keep this going for as long as it takes until the government comes back to us with a clearer offer," a leader Kwanchai Praipanna said. "We don`t want to stay long but it depends on whether we can reach an agreement."

Late on Thursday, their numbers had swollen to as many as 9,000, a report said. Numbers usually grow during the day into the cooler evenings before dropping to a few thousands who spend the night behind the fortified barricades.

The Thai stock market, fell 2.4 percent, underperforming regional peers that were also in negative territory amid growing global worries about the fallout from euro zone debt problems. The baht was little changed.

Thai stocks have now given up the gains notched up on Tuesday, when the index jumped 4.4 percent in reaction to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva`s reconciliation plan.

"The deal is still not off the table. There`re still more complications, more talks to look forward to. This stalemate could actually last for a while," said Kiatkong Decho, a strategist at CIMB Securities.

Abhisit said he would dissolve Parliament in the second half of September ahead of an election on November 14 as part of a plan to end a crisis in which 27 people have died and more than 1,000 been wounded in clashes.

But that failed to convince the mostly rural and urban poor "red shirt" protesters who have refused to budge from the commercial district, where posh malls and luxury hotels have been forced to close their doors since April 03.

There were mixed signals from the red shirt camp, who broad support ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, with some leaders suggesting a deal could be done soon.

"I cannot get into detail but we have spoken to representatives of the government as well as ruling coalition partners and received positive signals," said Jaran Ditapichai, a senior figure on the protest movement.

"There are issues which need to be worked out but I am optimistic we can come to an agreement and may be able to say soon when the protest will end."

Complicating the picture, Abhisit faces some opposition from the government`s traditional backers after the "yellow shirt" group, which broadly represents the royalist elite and the middle classes, condemned the plan.

Bureau Report

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