Thai ruling party meets to discuss crisis 'roadmap'
Thu, May 06, 2010
BANGKOK -Thailand's ruling party meets Thursday to discuss a reconciliation roadmap, as anti-government "Red Shirts" demand a date for the dissolution of parliament before ending weeks of crippling protests.
The demonstrators, who have mounted mass rallies in Bangkok since mid-March, have signed up to embattled premier Abhisit Vejjajiva's plan to end the crisis which includes holding elections on November 14.
But after a long and bitter standoff, which has flared with clashes that have left 27 dead and hundreds injured, they remain suspicious and want more details before dispersing their camp in the capital's retail heartland.
Lawmakers from Abhisit's Democrat Party will hold talks at parliament at 8.30am (2330 GMT Wednesday), party spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks said Wednesday.
"They expect to discuss the reconciliation roadmap which could include a date for House dissolution," he said.
Top Red Shirts have voiced optimism that the end is in sight for their supporters at the encampment, which is fortified behind makeshift barricades made of piles of kerosene-soaked tyres, razor wire and bamboo stakes.
"I have a feeling that we will soon return to our hometown as our goal to fight for true democracy and return power to the people is about to be achieved," leader Veera Musikapong Veera told the crowd Wednesday.
Another Reds leader Kwanchai Praipana also said the rally -- which has forced luxury hotels and shopping malls to close and caused huge economic losses -- would disperse soon despite the outstanding demands.
"We are still waiting for a clear answer from the government on the dissolution date," Kwanchai said. "We still demand government to stop intimidating our people and stop censoring our media outlets.
"I as well as other leaders think it is likely that by Sunday everything will be resolved and we can go back home," he added. "We feel that we don't want to torment our people any longer as they have given us their whole heart."
Crowds at the vast Reds camp - mostly rural poor from Thailand's impoverished north, or urban working class - have swelled to as high as 100,000 in the past, but numbers have steadily fallen.
Most protesters remain resolute despite the mounting piles of garbage, and the start of the rainy season which has made life hard for those sleeping rough under flimsy shelters.
The Reds, mostly supporters of billionaire former premier Thaksin Shinawatra who was unseated in a 2006 coup, have been campaigning for snap elections to unseat Abhisit's government.
They condemn the administration as illegitimate because it was appointed with the backing of the army in a 2008 parliamentary vote, after a court ruling ousted Thaksin's elected allies.
Abhisit said in a national address Monday that he was ready to hold elections on November 14 if all parties accepted his reconciliation plan and dropped their demand for immediate polls.
Sirichoke Sopa, a Democrats lawmaker seen as close to the premier, accused the Reds of nit-picking by insisting on a dissolution date and said that security forces remained on standby to clear the rally by force if necessary.
He said the dissolution would fall between September 15-30, under laws that mandate a 45-60 day election campaign.
Thaksin, a telecoms tycoon-turned-politician who now lives overseas to avoid a jail term for corruption, had been rallying the Reds nightly by video addresses, but has now called on the two sides to settle their differences.
The Reds have said the government is intent on clinging to power until September to ensure the new army leadership line-up is appointed and the national budget is approved in parliament before it holds elections.