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Updated: May 18, 2010 16:15 IST

Thai protest leaders accept senate as mediator for negotiations

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An anti-government protester sits with a book at a clash point with Thai soldiers, on Tuesday in Bangkok. Photo: AP.
An anti-government protester sits with a book at a clash point with Thai soldiers, on Tuesday in Bangkok. Photo: AP.

Protests leaders on Tuesday accepted an offer by the Thai Senate to mediate a solution to the conflict in Bangkok that has left 37 dead in five days of street battles.

United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leader Nattawut Kaisua they had accepted an offer by Senate Speaker Prasobsuk Boondej to act as a mediator with the government.

“We are ready to join the negotiations right now,” Mr. Nattawut said, addressing thousands of UDD followers at Ratchaprasong Road, in the centre of Bangkok, where the protestors have barricaded themselves in against government troops.

On Thursday the military began trying to force the protestors out of the commercial district they have occupied since April 3.

By Friday, troops had cordoned the three—square—kilometre zone, but were attacked from the outside as the insurrection spread to other neighbourhoods over the weekend.

The conflict has transformed the centre of Bangkok into a war zone, with certain streets becoming free—fire zones. The government’s emergency command centre launched the offensive on Ratchaprasong after the UDD essentially rejected a peace proposal offered by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on May 3. The UDD have been protesting in Bangkok since March 12, demanding that Mr. Abhisit dissolve parliament and hold new elections. After a series of clashes that claimed 29 lives in April, Mr. Abhisit agreed to hold a new election on November 14, dissolve parliament between September 15 and 30, and launch a reconciliation process on the condition that the UDD ends the protest. Members of UDD initially welcomed Mr. Abhsiit’s proposal, but negotiations fell apart due to infighting within the protest leadership, and the street battles renewed.

After five days of bloodshed, it appears that both sides are now ready to return to negotiations, sources said.

“The signs are better,” political analyst Gothom Areeya said. “The first thing both sides need to agree upon is to stop the shooting, or at least to agree to keep 500 metres distance between the troops and the protestors.” The government is expected to announce whether it will accept the Senate as a mediator later on Tuesday.

Keywords: Thai turmoil

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