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Red Shirts agree for peace talks with Thai govt

Scattered violence continued on Tuesday in the standoff between soldiers and anti-government protesters.

News18test sharma |

Updated:May 18, 2010, 11:52 AM IST
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Red Shirts agree for peace talks with Thai govt
Scattered violence continued on Tuesday in the standoff between soldiers and anti-government protesters.

Bangkok: Hopes rose on Tuesday for an end to deadly mayhem in Thailand's capital as leaders of a protest movement occupying central Bangkok said they would unconditionally accept an offer by the Thai Senate to mediate talks.

Scattered violence continued on Tuesday in the standoff between soldiers and anti-government Red Shirt protesters that has killed 37 people in the past six days.

The country's upper house of Parliament on Monday offered to broker negotiations between the warring sides providing they both stopped that fighting that has transformed large swaths of downtown Bangkok to a war zone.

A Red Shirt leader, Weng Tojirakarn, told a news conference "we accept the proposal from the Senate." Another protest leader, Nattawut Saikua, said, "It would not be right if I set conditions for the Senate."

It was not immediately known whether the government had agreed to the Senate talks

In perhaps the most hopeful of recent signs that Thailand's two-month-long crisis could be resolved, both sides Monday evening also revealed that the government's chief negotiator and a Red Shirt leader had discussed negotiations in a mobile telephone call.

But previous attempts to negotiate an end to the standoff — which has destabilized a country once regarded as one of Southeast Asia's most stable democracies — have failed. A government offer earlier this month to hold November elections foundered after protest leaders made more demands.

Meanwhile, violence continued unabated on Bangkok's streets with security forces arresting a 12-year-old boy Tuesday morning for allegedly setting fire to several houses during the mayhem.

At least 37 people — mostly civilians — have been killed and 266 wounded since the government began a blockade last Thursday on a sprawling protesters' camp in the heart of Bangkok. Most of the unrest has flared outside the camp, with troops firing live ammunition at roaming protesters who have lit tires to hide their positions.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's administration gave the anti-government demonstrators, who have been entrenched in the upscale Rajprasong district for more than a month, a Monday afternoon deadline to leave or face two-year prison terms.

By Tuesday, there was still no exodus among the estimated 3,000 protesters remaining at the camp, and no sign of troops trying to break through their tire-and-bamboo barricades.

The Red Shirts, many of whom hail from the impoverished north and northeast, have been rallying in the city since March 12 in attempts to unseat Abhisit and force immediate elections. They say the coalition government came to power through manipulation of the courts and the backing of the powerful military, and that it symbolizes a national elite indifferent to their plight.

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