'Red Shirt' protesters refuse more talks after PM rejects snap elections

3 min

After two rounds of televised talks with Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, anti-government "Red Shirt" protesters on Tuesday rejected offers for more talks after the premier refused their 15-day deadline to call fresh elections.


AFP - Thailand's anti-government "Red Shirts" on Tuesday rejected the prime minister's offer of more talks and said negotiations had failed because he would not meet their 15-day deadline to call elections.

Leaders of the red-clad protest movement have held two rounds of televised talks with premier Abhisit Vejjajiva since Sunday, but they appeared to make little progress towards ending weeks of disruptive mass rallies in Bangkok.

"Negotiations have completely failed and have already ended. No more talks, everything is finished," a defiant Red Shirts leader Jatuporn Prompan told reporters, refusing Abhisit's offer to hold fresh discussions on Thursday.

During talks late Monday, Abhisit offered Jatuporn and two other Red Shirt representatives a compromise deal, saying he was willing to call elections by the end of the year, one year ahead of schedule.

"We need 15 days, while the government needs nine months," Jatuporn said after the two sides parted without agreement. "The government is insincere."

The supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra say the government is elitist and undemocratic because it came to power through a parliamentary vote after a controversial court ruling removed Thaksin's allies from power.

The group, who stem mostly from Thailand's rural poor, first gathered more than two weeks ago in Bangkok's government quarter -- the latest in a string of rival street campaigns in the politically riven kingdom.

"It's a pity that protest leaders have swiftly rejected the government's offer and signalled the immediate end of talks. Despite this, the government is still open for negotiations," Abhisit told reporters Tuesday.

Abhisit also lashed out at the Reds' political icon, populist fugitive tycoon Thaksin who was ousted in a 2006 coup and now lives abroad to avoid a jail sentence for corruption at home.

The former policeman turned politician supports his movement with near-daily speeches by videolink but Abhisit urged the Reds not to be "pawns of Thaksin" before leaving for a two-day visit to Bahrain.

Thaksin himself has been in Sweden in recent days, after the United Arab Emirates asked him to leave his main base of Dubai, according to vice foreign minister Panich Vikitsreth.

"The UAE has sent a clear signal to Thailand that it will not allow Thaksin to engage in political activities there," Panich told reporters.

The cabinet on Tuesday extended for a week a harsh security law that allows the military to take control of a 50,000-strong force deployed across Bangkok and surrounding provinces to monitor the rallies.

While the demonstrations have been peaceful so far, a series of small explosions have hit politically significant sites and army buildings, injuring more than a dozen people in the last four days.

About 80,000 Red Shirts rallied on Saturday and forced troops to retreat from security posts in the heart of Bangkok. But police said only 16,000 protesters remained at their rally ground on Monday.

The Reds have staged a series of dramatic stunts in their bid to force Abhisit out, including throwing their own blood at his office gates.

Abhisit had ruled out talks while the protesters remained on the streets, but changed his mind on Sunday, a move analysts said might hint at a weakening of his support by the establishment.

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