Thai protesters stand ground amid peace overtures
Thousands of Thai anti-government protesters remained barricaded inside their encampment in Bangkok Wednesday, demanding more details on a proposed roadmap aimed at ending the tense standoff.
Bangkok: Thousands of Thai anti-government protesters remained barricaded inside their encampment in Bangkok Wednesday, demanding more details on a proposed roadmap aimed at ending the tense standoff.
The "Red Shirts", whose eight-week-old rallies have shut down parts of Bangkok and sparked the deadliest civil unrest in 18 years, agreed Tuesday to join Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva`s proposed reconciliation process.
But they are still refusing to disperse, calling on Abhisit to make clear when he will dissolve parliament for elections and to withdraw troops.
The Reds` protest site in the commercial heart of te capital remained encircled with barricades of piled-up truck tyres, razor wire and bamboo stakes, despite signs the rivals are edging towards reconciliation.
"End double standards. Dissolve parliament," read a banner inside the camp, where orange-robed monks were performing an early morning chanting ceremony on the rally stage as long lines of people queued for breakfast.
Red Shirt leaders said Tuesday they had unanimously agreed to join the reconciliation roadmap proposed by the embattled prime minister to prevent further bloodshed.
Abhisit said in a nationally televised address Monday that he was ready to hold elections on November 14 if all parties accepted his reconciliation plan.
But the protesters said the premier should spell out when he will dissolve parliament and leave it to the Election Commission to set the poll date.
"We will continue the rally until Abhisit says clearly when he will dissolve the House. Then we will discuss our next move," said a protest leader, Jatuporn Prompan.
"Reconciliation must be achieved not by intimidation and the use of force but with complete freedom," he told reporters on Tuesday.
A series of clashes between the demonstrators and security forces have left 27 people dead and nearly 1,000 wounded in the country`s worst civil unrest in almost two decades.
Thailand`s fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra -- whose is idolised by many of the protesters -- called for the two sides to settle their differences.
"Reconciliation is good for everybody," he said in a phone-in to a meeting of the opposition Puea Thai Party on Tuesday. "Don`t think about the past but look to the future. That is how national reconciliation will happen."
Many of the "Red Shirts" are seeking the return of the telecoms tycoon-turned-politician, hailing his policies for the masses.
Many of the protesters have been sleeping on the streets for weeks with little or no shelter and with the rainy season setting in life in the rubbish-strewn camp is becoming more difficult.
Their campaign has caused several hotels and major stores to shutter their doors temporarily and prompted foreign governments to warn against travel to the "Land of Smiles".
Arrest warrants have been issued for many leading Red Shirts, who have been defying a ban on rallies under a state of emergency in the city.
But the authorities are ready to discuss an amnesty for protest leaders, according to a government source.
Abhisit, the British-born, Oxford-educated head of the establishment Democrat Party, does not have to go to the polls until the end of next year.
Some observers say that when he does face the people, his failure to connect with the rural masses means he faces a tough battle against the pro-Thaksin forces that have won every election for a decade.