Monday, May 10, 2010

Thai Protesters Split as Government Deadline Looms

Thai anti-government protesters appeared split on Monday over whether to call off their crippling demonstration after Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva demanded a swift response to a peace plan that includes an early election.

The "red shirt" protesters, drawn from the rural and urban poor, cancelled news conferences on Sunday evening and Monday morning amid reports their loosely organised leadership could not agree on a common response.

"The government has failed to show any sincerity to us," one leader, Weng Tojirakarn, told supporters from the stage erected at the protest site. "So far there has been no response from the government to any of our requests, which include calling off the state of emergency before ending the protest."

After weekend gun and grenade attacks that killed two police officers, Abhisit had said he wanted a "clear answer" to his reconciliation offer on Monday, but he did not say how he would respond if none was forthcoming.

The authorities are still faced with the dilemma of how to dislodge thousands of protesters, including women and children, from a fortified encampment sprawling across 3 sq km (1.2 sq mile) of an upmarket central Bangkok shopping district.

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