'Red shirts' defiant after clashes

21 killed as protesters rule out negotiations with Thai govt

'Red shirts' defiant after clashes

A Red Shirt guard sits atop an abandoned Thai Army armored personnel carriers on Sunday morning. AP

Bangkok was quiet on Sunday, but with no resolution in sight and the prospect of more violence, analysts said the stock market, one of Asia’s most buoyant this year, was likely to take a hit when trading resumed on Monday.

“The time for negotiation is up. We don’t negotiate with murderers,” said Weng Tojirakarn, a red shirt leader. “We have to keep fighting,” he said adding the protesters were not planning any action in Bangkok on Sunday “out of respect for the dead.”

The red shirts, mostly rural and working-class supporters of ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a coup in 2006, are demanding that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolve Parliament immediately and leave the country.

Saturday’s fighting, the worst political violence in the country in 18 years and some of it in well-known Bangkok tourist areas, ended after security forces pulled back late in the night.

The red shirts, still numbering in thousands, have occupied two main areas of the capital, a city of 15 million. They made no attempt to come out of their bases on Sunday and troops did not make any move toward them.

Soldiers released

A red shirt protester stands guard on top of an abandoned Thai Army armoured personnel carriers in Bangkok on Sunday. APArmy spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the red shirts had released six soldiers they had been holding. “They were not injured, just tired and shaken,” he said.

Local television said Abhisit had called for a meeting with red shirt leaders, but no time was set. But having seen off the attempt to disperse them, the red shirts seemed in no mood to compromise.

Foreign investors have been plowing money into Thai stocks this year but the outbreak of violence caused them to pause. The stock market is open on Monday but closed from Tuesday to Thursday for the Thai New Year holiday.

There was tension outside Bangkok as well. Thai media reported that around 500 red shirts had again forced their way into the grounds of a Thaicom satellite earth station north of Bangkok, a flashpoint on Friday when the authorities blocked an opposition TV station. Other reports said an M79 grenade was fired at the headquarters of army-owned Channel 5 TV station in the northern province of Phayao early on Sunday.

On Saturday, hundreds of protesters forced their way into government offices in two northern cities, raising the risk of a larger uprising against the 16-month-old, army-backed government.

More than 800 people were wounded on Saturday as troops fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the demonstrators, who fought back with guns, grenades and petrol bombs near the Phan Fah bridge and Rajdumnoen Road in Bangkok’s old quarter, one of the two bases for the month-old protest. 

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