BANGKOK, May 9, 2010 (AFP) - Thailand's premier called Sunday for a swift end to mass anti-government protests following fresh bloodshed, saying he had a back-up plan to solve the crisis if the demonstrators refuse to disperse.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva demanded the opposition "Red Shirts" give a "clear answer" by Monday on whether they will accept his offer to hold elections in mid-November if they disperse within the next few days.
"You should stop the rally quickly for safety reasons," said Abhisit, whose reconciliation "roadmap" aims to defuse a crippling two-month confrontation and envisages holding elections on November 14.
"Terrorists and people who live abroad want to disrupt the reconciliation plan," he said on national television.
"No matter whether they (the protesters) stop the rally or not, we have a back-up plan which will lead to a resolution of the problem," he added.
|Thai pro-government demonstrators hold national flags during a small rally at the King Taksin statue in Bangkok on May 8, 2010. AFP photo|
The government and the "Red Shirt" opposition protesters Saturday reaffirmed their commitment to a reconciliation process aimed at ending outbreaks of civil violence that have left 29 people dead and about 1,000 injured.
The latest casualties were two police officers who were killed in gun and grenade attacks on Friday and Saturday close to the Red Shirts' massive rally encampment, which has shut down most of Bangkok's main shopping district.
The opposition protesters denied involvement in the attacks and nobody has claimed responsibility.
The Reds, who broadly support fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, were working on their own proposals to end the political crisis after thousands more supporters bolstered their rally in the heart of Bangkok.
Thaksin, a telecoms tycoon-turned-politician, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, now lives in exile to avoid a jail sentence for corruption.
The Red Shirts have signed up to the peace process but are demanding a firm date for the dissolution of parliament before disbanding their base, where they are barricaded behind piles of fuel-soaked tyres and razor wire.
Both sides said the attacks were the work of groups intent on derailing Abhisit's peace roadmap.
The premier said the latest attacks were "carried out by terrorists who don't want the reconciliation plan."
The Reds also said the latest killings were carried out by elements intent on sabotaging the peace proposals.
"This will not distract us or derail the process," Reds leader Nattawut Saikuar said Saturday. However, he indicated that an agreement was not yet within reach.
"The five-point roadmap plan which is proposed by Abhisit we already understand. But on our part, we need a few more days to come up with our own proposals, which will be flexible," he said.
Crowds at the Reds camp have swelled to as many as 100,000 people in the past, but earlier this week when a resolution appeared near, numbers dwindled to just a few thousand as a weary air descended on the rally area.
On Saturday, however, their ranks were boosted by 5,000 more supporters who arrived from the movement's heartland in Thailand's rural, impoverished northeast.
In its colour-coded crisis, Thailand is largely split between the mainly rural poor and urban working class Reds and the pro-establishment "Yellow Shirts."
The Yellows -- who blockaded Bangkok's two main airports in 2008 in their own protests -- have rejected the roadmap and election plan and called on the prime minister to resign.
The Reds condemn Abhisit's administration as illegitimate because it came to power in an army-backed 2008 parliamentary vote after a controversial court ruling ousted Thaksin's elected allies.