Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has scrapped an offer to hold an early election this year after anti—government demonstrators refused to end their two-month-old protest, officials confirmed Thursday.
Mr. Abhisit last week proposed to hold an election on November 14, in a bid to appease the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), whose supporters are commonly known as red shirts, which has been staging protests in Bangkok since March 12 to try to force a dissolution of parliament.
A precondition for the early polls was that the UDD must end its protest at Ratchaprasong Road in the heart of Bangkok’s commercial district, which the red shirts have occupied since April 3.
“It is fitting that the premier has rescinded the offer to hold an early poll as the red shirts have refused to disperse,” Korbsak Sabhavasu, the prime minister’s secretary—general, told reporters Wednesday evening. The UDD leadership initially welcomed Mr. Abhisit’s proposal, but they have refused to disperse at Ratchaprasong Road until Suthep Thaugsuban, deputy prime minster in charge of security, faces criminal charges for ordering a crackdown on their followers on April 10 that left 25 dead, including 19 protestors, five soldiers and one foreign journalist.
The condition was partly met when Mr. Suthep on Tuesday acknowledged charges against him at the Department of Special Investigation, which is looking into the crackdown, but the UDD has insisted Mr. Suthep must be interrogated, charged and granted bail.
If Mr. Suthep is granted bail, the UDD leadership argues it would set a precedent for them to be granted bail as well once they end their protests and turn themselves in to the authorities.
The 24 top UDD leaders are afraid to quit their protest site because they face arrest once they step outside the barricades on various charges including breaking the emergency law, terrorism and criticizing the monarchy.
The UDD leadership is also split, with some of them willing to quit but others opposed to ending the protest until they have met their original goal of forcing an immediate dissolution of parliament, sources said.
Mr. Abhisit and other members of his Democrat Party have blamed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, one of the de—facto leaders of the UDD although he is living in self—exile, for being behind the demonstrators’ reluctance to end their protest.
“Everyone knows that Thaksin does not want to stop but wants to ruin all aspects of legitimacy,” deputy leader of the Democrat party, Kraisak Choonhavan, told the Bangkok Post newspaper.
The government has postponed a plan to cut electricity and water to the Ratchaprasong neighbourhood out of deference to people, other than protestors, living in the upscale area.
“Authorities are now working on technical ways to reduce the grid to the area with a minimal impact on non—protestors,” government spokesman Panitan Wattanyakorn said.