BANGKOK - Thailand's embattled premier put his plan for November elections on hold as opposition protesters held their ground Thursday despite threats by the authorities to cut supplies to their vast encampment.
Hopes of a peaceful resolution to the crippling crisis are fading, with the "Red Shirts" refusing to disperse until Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban is charged for his role in overseeing a deadly April 10 crackdown.
"It's clear that the Red Shirts have only verbally accepted to join the reconciliation roadmap but have not agreed to end the protests. Therefore it's impossible to hold elections as proposed," the prime minister's secretary-general, Korbsak Sabhavasu, told AFP.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva offered to dissolve parliament in the second half of September for elections on November 14 if all parties accepted his reconciliation plan.
The Reds, who have been protesting in Bangkok for two months in a campaign for immediate elections, initially agreed to enter the process but efforts to reach a deal that would see them go home have since broken down.
"The prime minister has said that if today everyone, including the government, can work freely and travel freely without disruption then there can be elections, but the situation is making no progress," said Korbsak.
"As there is no election there is no need for house dissolution."
The Reds say the government is undemocratic because it came to power in a 2008 parliamentary vote after a court ruling ousted elected allies of their hero, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was unseated in a 2006 coup.
Twenty-nine people have been killed and almost 1,000 injured in Bangkok in a series of confrontations and attacks since the protests began in mid-March, in Thailand's worst political violence in almost two decades.
Arrest warrants have been issued for many of the movement's top leaders and observers say that disagreement between the two sides over a possible amnesty is likely to be one of the main sticking points.
The Red Shirts vowed Wednesday to "fight to the death" after authorities threatened to lay siege to their sprawling encampment, saying they would cut off food, water and power supplies to the vast rally site.
"This is the beginning of measures to fully impose the law," said Sunsern Kaewkumnerd, a spokesman for the government unit set up to deal with the crisis, warning the authorities were ready to use force if necessary.
"The army is ready, but at this moment I don't want to talk about a crackdown as we want to use measures to put pressure on them."
The mainly poor and working class Red Shirts shrugged off the threatened new measures, saying they had their own generators and that it would be impossible to cut their power without also affecting hospitals in the area.
"If you want to crack down, you're welcome at any time," one protest leader, Jatupron Prompan, said Wednesday. "We will fight to the death."
Electricity was not cut in the protest site after midnight Thursday.
Officials later said they had not ruled out cutting power and water, but would begin action by introducing measures less intrusive to the public.
"Whatever measures they do have to be done carefully so that it doesn't create more problems," said government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn. "So we're trying to decrease activity in the area gradually."
The Reds' ranks were boosted over the weekend by 5,000 more supporters who arrived from the movement's heartland in the impoverished rural northeast, defying a ban on rallies in the capital, which is under a state of emergency.