Red Shirts willing, but government rejects Senate talks
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Thailand's anti-government Red Shirt protesters say they will accept a proposal by the head of the country's Senate to mediate talks with the government and end two months of deadly street demonstrations. But the government said there would be no negotiations until the protesters end their rally.
“The Reds agree to accept the proposal by the senate speaker, who wants to mediate the talks, and are ready to join from now,” said protest leader Nattawut Saikuar on Tuesday.
The protesters have no conditions and are willing to consider all proposals, he added.
But negotiations will come only “when demonstrators disperse”, cabinet minister Satit Wonghnongtaey told a televised news conference.
RFI's Arnaud Dubus in Bangkok
The rejection of the Red Shirts’ overtures means more violence is likely, says RFI’s correspondent in Bangkok, Arnaud Dubus.
Dubus, who has visited the protesters’ base, says they are well set to continue occupying part of the city, with supplies brought in by supporters whom they contact via a radio network.
“They are firstly very angry because of the heavy death toll, and then they consider that now the only solution would be for the Prime Minister [Abhisit Vejjajiva] and the Deputy Prime Minister [Sutep Thaugsuban] to leave the country and live abroad for a while,” he tells RFI.
But even if Red Shirt leaders wish to negotiate, there is no guarantee they will be able to bring the protests to an end, Dubus suggests. At this stage it’s not clear whether demonstrators would obey their orders to disperse, he says.
There are still around 5,000 protesters at the main rally site in northern Bangkok, according to a police spokesperson. Large crowds have also gathered at three locations elsewhere in the city.
The Red Shirts are campaigning for snap elections and an end to Prime Minister Abhisit’s administration. They defied a government deadline on Monday to disperse from the area in northern Bangkok where they have been camped for six weeks.
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