Thai `red shirts` ignore new government threats
Anti-government protesters in the Thai capital showed no sign of leaving the city`s main shopping district on Monday despite new warnings of clashes and losses during a two-month crisis that has already killed 27 people.
Bangkok: Anti-government protesters in the Thai capital showed no sign of leaving the city`s main shopping district on Monday despite new warnings of clashes and losses during a two-month crisis that has already killed 27 people.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva warned thousands of red shirted protesters on Sunday there was a risk of further trouble if the protesters did not leave upscale Bangkok shopping district they have closed and barricaded themselves in for a month.
Abhisit is under intense pressure to end the two-month stalemate that has choked off tourism, paralysed Bangkok, shut major department stores and stoked concerns of civil unrest. The finance minister said last week the protests could cut economic growth by two percentage points if they continue all year.
Thailand`s financial markets, closed for a market holiday on Monday, have underperformed regional peers since April 10 when the protest turned deadly with a gun battle in the heart of old Bangkok that killed 25 people and wounded more than 800. "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 said in a weekly televised address on Sunday. It was not clear what he meant by "losses."
By early on Monday, thousands of the red-shirted supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra remained in their 3 sq-km (1.2 sq-mile) fortified encampment, continuing to demand Parliament be dissolved and elections held within three months.
The mostly rural and urban poor red shirts say Abhisit lacks a popular mandate after coming to power in a controversial parliamentary vote 17 months ago and heading a coalition cobbled together with help from the military.
British-born Abhisit has rejected a red shirt proposal for an election in three months, saying he would not negotiate in the face of threats. He has offered to call elections in December, a year early.
New plan to ease tensions
Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayakorn said on Sunday Abhisit had come up with a new plan to ease tensions, which would be clarified soon.
A report in The Bangkok Post newspaper on Monday said Abhisit would bring forward his offer to dissolve Parliament in nine months, but this could not be immediately confirmed.
Authorities also plan to use mobile phone text messages to try and persuade the protesters to leave.
"The government will send text messages to protesters to tell them about the situation and is hoping they will return home," Panitan told reporters.
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."
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 among them.