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Thai PM under pressure; army chief calls for polls
Bangkok, Apr 12 (Agencies):
Published on 13 Apr. 2010 1:01 AM IST
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Thailand’s army chief called on Monday for early elections, adding to pressure on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva whose party may face prosecution over funding activities.
The call came after weekend protests left 21 dead and 800 injured and although there was no violence on Monday, protesters circled the capital and still occupied their bases in Bangkok, one near a major shopping center.
“The current issue now is about dissolution of parliament, so my understanding is we just need to dissolve the House. But how long it will take before the house dissolution, that depends on the result of the negotiations,” Thai army chief Anupong Paochinda told a news conference.
Abhisit himself has said he could dissolve parliament by the year-end, a move that has not satisfied “red shirt” protesters, supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who want him to quit immediately and leave the country.
Thailand’s Election Commission added to pressure on Abhisit when it ruled that his Democrats Party could face prosecution over funding irregularities, cheering anti-government protesters who marched in Bangkok after a weekend of violence.Although the proceedings in the Supreme Court could take months, if a prosecution is launched, a similar measure was used to oust the government backed by Thaksin in 2008.
Abhisit, in a televised news conference, termed some of the protesters “terrorists, using their innocent fellow citizens who came to call for democracy, to incite unrest to bring a significant change in the country”.
Thai protesters parade dead through Bangkok
Early on Monday the anti-government protesters, known as red-shirts, paraded coffins through Bangkok. General Anupong Prachinda said a House dissolution was the best end to the political impasse and insisted there would be no use of force against the protesters.
Analysts are not surprised that Gen Anupong is taking this line - he wants a soft landing, they say, after his retirement planned for this September. But the timing of the comments give them more weight. They also echo opposition demands for new elections, two days after an army crackdown on the opposition failed.
The general’s comments appeared to spark a near instant response from Prime Minister Abhisit, who clearly felt the need to assert that his government was united and would last. Most of the coffins were empty, but at least two contained the bodies of demonstrators killed in clashes with the security forces. Both sides accuse each other of firing live bullets during the confrontation.
Jatuporn Prompan, one of the red-shirts’ leaders, told a rally that Mr Abhisit’s hands were “bloodied” by the clashes.
“Red-shirts will never negotiate with murderers,” he announced from a makeshift stage.
“Although the road is rough and full of obstacles, it’s our duty to honour the dead by bringing democracy to this country.”
The red-shirts still control important intersections in the city and are increasingly confident after withstanding the security forces’ attempt to move them back, the BBC’s Quentin Sommerville reports from the Thai capital.
But there was little sign of renewed clashes in the city on Monday, with shops reopening and the rail network running again.

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