Anti-government protesters forced a rush hour shutdown of Bangkok’s busy elevated train system on Tuesday and promised to expand protests that have plunged the Thai capital into chaos by sending teams of demonstrators throughout the city.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who has broken off negotiations with the protesters occupying parts of central Bangkok, said he hoped to resolve the crisis soon without resorting to force, but he also deployed hundreds of soldiers armed with automatic weapons to guard stations and other major city boulevards.
“We recognise that as every day passes by, the people of Thailand suffer, the country suffers, but we want to make sure that there is rule of law,” Mr. Abhisit told CNN, according to quotes posted on the news channel’s Website. “We will try to enforce the law with minimum losses and we will try to find a political resolution, but it takes time, patience and cooperation.”
At least 26 people have been killed and nearly 1,000 wounded since protesters known as the Red Shirts — who hail mostly from poor, rural provinces and view the government as illegitimate — began occupying parts of Bangkok in mid-March, closing down five-star hotels and shopping malls and devastating the country’s vital tourism industry.
The government has not given a clear statement of how it plans to end the standoff after rejecting a Red Shirt compromise proposal over the weekend to disband Parliament within 30 days instead of immediately. Dissolving Parliament would trigger elections, which Mr. Abhisit would likely lose.
In his interview with CNN, recorded on Monday, Mr. Abhisit said he could not disband the legislature without consultie up largely of supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and pro-democracy activists who opposed the military coup that ousted him in 2006 — believe that Mr. Abhisit’s government is illegitimate, having been helped into power by the country’s powerful military.
Keywords: Political turmoil,