A protest movement demanding new elections in Thailand has abandoned negotiations with the prime minister and said on Tuesday it will instead will resume its massive street demonstrations.
Jatuporn Prompan, one of the leaders of the so—called Red Shirts, said on Tuesday that two televised face—to—face meetings with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and aides would not be followed up on Thursday “because both sides now have different goals.”
“Our demand is for the parliament dissolution to take place within 15 days,” he said. Mr. Abhisit had offered on Monday to dissolve parliament by the end of the year, prompting new election.
The Red Shirt protesters - formally known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship - have been holding street demonstrations in the Thai capital for the past two and a half weeks. On two or three occasions, they have mustered as many as 100,000 people, short of the 1 million that the protest leaders had called for, but among the biggest demonstrations in Thailand in the past few decades.
Jatuporn said another massive gathering is set for Saturday, with its exact nature to be announced later.
“How we will step up our measures will also be told when we begin our operations, but we confirm they will be based on nonviolent principles,” he said.
The Red Shirts believe that Mr. Abhisit came to power illegitimately with the connivance of the military and other parts of the traditional ruling class and that only new elections can restore integrity to Thai democracy.
The movement consists largely of supporters former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted by a 2006 military coup, and pro-democracy activists who opposed the army takeover. Its leaders have portrayed the demonstrations as a struggle between Thailand’s impoverished, mainly rural masses - who benefited from Mr. Thaksin’s policies of cheap health care and low—interest village loans - and a Bangkok—based elite insensitive to their plight.
Mr. Thaksin’s allies won elections in 2007 to restore democracy, but two successive governments formed in the wake were dismantled by court rulings. Mr. Abhisit’s party formed a coalition government by parliamentary vote in late 2008.
The Thai government, meanwhile, extended use of a stringent security law in the Bangkok area until April 7.
Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, says the Cabinet voted on Tuesday to approve an extension of the Internal Security Act, which was initially invoked ahead of protests that started on March 12.
The security law allows the prime minister to use the military to restore order if necessary.
Mr. Suthep said the security law also will be invoked in the seaside town of Hua Hin from April 2—6 for a meeting of Asian leaders from countries that border the Mekong river.