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Thailand protesters mull compromise offer to end crisis
Bangkok, APR 24 (Agencies)
Published on 24 Apr. 2010 11:53 PM IST
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Thailand’s red-shirted protesters and the embattled government on Saturday deliberated over the first steps towards a peaceful solution to their long-running deadlock.
The world community has urged both sides on Thailand’s political divide to find a compromise, after two bouts of clashes this month that have left 26 dead and hundreds injured including demonstrators and security forces.
As fears grew of a crackdown to close down a vast “Red Shirts” encampment in the heart of Bangkok, and end weeks of crippling street rallies, the Army Chief said on Friday that the use of force was no solution to the crisis.
“The best thing is to create understanding among the people. The Army’s job now is to take care of the people, and not allow Thais to attack each other,” General Anupong Paojinda told a meeting of military top brass.
The Reds, who had been seeking snap elections to replace a government they condemn as illegitimate, shortly after softened their demands and said they would accept a dissolution of Parliament in 30 days.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who came to power in a 2008 parliamentary vote after a court removed allies of ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a coup, was noncommittal on the Reds’ offer.
“I am determined to solve the problem,” he told reporters late Friday, adding that a political solution could not be reached amid threats and intimidation.
Abhisit, who has been holed up in a military barracks since last month because of the protests, added: “I have a duty to solve the problem. If I can’t I should not be here.” Red Shirt leaders on Saturday calmed their supporters, some of whom were angry over the concessions. “The new proposal does not mean we are retreating, in political terms we are on the offensive because otherwise the international community will put pressure on us,” Jaran Ditsatapichai said.
“If we shut down the door for negotiation it will be bad for us,” he said, adding that foreign diplomats who met with the Reds on Friday had urged them to find a solution to avoid a looming crackdown.
Jaran said the military was reluctant to disperse the rally -- a manoeuvre that would likely cause huge casualties -- and that a crackdown would be shelved during the current negotiating phase.
Other Reds leaders were irritated over Abhisit’s response to their proposal, and said they would continue calling in supporters from their stronghold in the country’s impoverished and rural north.

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