Thailand

PM refuses protesters' demand for new government

Supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra wave Thai flags during a march to a military base in Bangkok where the government is holed up.
Supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra wave Thai flags during a march to a military base in Bangkok where the government is holed up. Reuters

Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Monday rejected an ultimatum by supporters of his ousted predecessor Thaksin Shinawatra to call snap elections, as an 86,000-strong crowd rallied outside the military barracks in Bangkok to which the government has retreated. While the protest has so far been peaceful, unknown attackers fired grenades on another Bangkok barracks on Monday.

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Four M-79 grenades were fired from a car at a central Bangkok base at 1.30 pm local time, according to an army spokesman.

It is not known who was responsible for the attack, which injured two soldiers.

The attack came as tens of thousands of Thaksin's supporters, dressed in their habitual red, gathered outside the 11th infantry army barracks on Bangkok's northern
outskirts to demand that the prime minister dissolve parliament by 05.00 GMT.

The so-called Red Shirts warned that Abhisit would face mounting protests unless he gives in, prompting the military to boost troop numbers and ready evacuation plans.

But in a nationally televised address from the barracks, where ministers and military officials were also gathered, Abhisit said that "the coalition parties agree the demand cannot be met".

"Elections must be held under common rules and genuine calm. We have to listen to other people's voices, not just the protesters," the prime minister said.

Thaksin, who lives abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption, addressed the crowd from an undisclosed European location by video link late on Sunday, urging his supporters to press on.

At least 86,000 protesters have been gathered in downtown Bangkok since Saturday, where soldiers and riot police have been deployed under a strict security law that allows authorities to ban gatherings and impose curfews.

In total, authorities said, a 50,000-strong security force was on hand across the capital and surrounding provinces.

The current demonstration is the largest in Bangkok since violent Red Shirt rallies last April left two people dead and scores injured.

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