Amid the escalating anti-government protest in Bangkok, an official spokesman on Saturday said “massive disruption of traffic and road blockages may not be considered a peaceful demonstration as permissible under Constitution”.

The authorities might, therefore, adopt a step-by-step approach. And, the spokesman said “the subsequent impact is predicted to be many [-folded], be it [on the] political atmosphere or business mood”.

Without spelling out the government's options, he said, “one impact [of the three-week-long protest] is clear: the ongoing talks between the government and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) is likely to be more or less affected”.

On the political front, it was made clear on behalf of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva that he would not budge from his recent offer to dissolve the House of Representatives in nine months' time, a year ahead of schedule, and hold a general election. A referendum on constitutional amendments was also offered as a possible topic for negotiations with the protest leaders.

Mr. Abhisit and the UDD leaders held two sessions of talks aimed at defusing the tensions.

There has been no agreement on carrying the dialogue forward, with the UDD insisting on a quick dissolution of the House.

The protesters, whose numbers have varied from 60,000 to 1,00,000 in most unofficial estimates, have been demanding genuine democracy and arguing that Mr. Abhisit, portrayed as a proxy of the military bloc, had come to power without a popular mandate.

The UDD is being encouraged by the former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, now a fugitive abroad, through exhortations over video links from his bases in self-imposed exile.

He was overthrown in a bloodless military coup in 2006, and Thailand has experienced varying degrees of political crisis since then.

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