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Page last updated at 05:15 GMT, Tuesday, 14 April 2009 06:15 UK

Army moves in on Bangkok protests

A Thai soldier stands guard in Bangkok (14/04/2009)
At least two people died in the violence on Monday

Security forces in Thailand have tightened their grip on a hard core of anti-government protesters surrounding official buildings in Bangkok.

Some of the protest leaders have been urging demonstrators to go home, after thousands of police and soldiers moved to cordon them off overnight.

After an uneasy calm settled on the city overnight, soldiers have been warning them to leave, reports say.

At least two people died in a day of clashes on Monday.

Red-shirted protesters are demanding the resignation of PM Abhisit Vejjajiva - but he has refused and is urging them to go home.

On Tuesday, protest leader Prateep Ungsongtham Hata told the AFP news agency: "We held talks among the leaders since last night and have agreed that we will disperse our protesters for a while."

Ms Prateep said the leaders wanted to prevent any loss of life, saying the protesters "really want to fight and sacrifice themselves so we wanted to prevent a catastrophe".

"We are not surrendering, we are just dispersing the gathering because we have done nothing wrong," she said.

Another protest leader, Jatuporn Pronpan, told Reuters: "We have to stop because we need to look after the lives of our supporters."

Monday saw a dramatic escalation of violence on the streets, after days of protest by supporters of ousted PM Thakin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006.

Soldiers were seen firing their guns into the air and into the crowds, while protesters burnt buses and threw firebombs in retaliation.

Two people were killed in clashes which apparently did not involve security forces but the protesters and rival groups of disgruntled citizens. Dozens have been injured.

Die-hard

The BBC's Jonathan Head, in the city, says troops backed by armoured vehicles are advancing towards the last group of anti-government protesters around Government House.

Map of Bangkok

He says there are thought to be some 2-3,000 die-hard protesters who have barricaded themselves in, and they are hugely outnumbered.

He says this appears to be a final push to end the current crisis, but it is not yet clear how much of a fight protesters are prepared to put up.

Earlier, some in the camp told the BBC they were prepared to "fight to the death".

Mr Abhisit has said he will not negotiate with Mr Thaksin and that the country was facing a "do-or-die" moment for the rule of law.

He told Reuters: "I do listen to the concerns of some people who have joined the 'red shirts' in terms of democratic developments."

"In particular, if they are not satisfied with the constitution, if they think there may be some injustice in the system, I am happy to address those," he said.

But he said that dissolving parliament and calling elections could lead to further instability.

'More deaths'

The prime minister confirmed that two local people had been killed in the violence.

Thaksin on protests in Thailand

But there have been unsubstantiated claims from some of the protesters that more that two people were killed in yesterday's fighting.

"Many 'red shirts' have been killed," said Wannee Sathit, a protester speaking from inside the camp near Government House.

"The army has taken the dead bodies away."

In a BBC interview on Monday, the ousted Mr Thaksin said the situation in Thailand was one of "very brutal suppression".

He called for a "peaceful revolution", saying the protesters "come with bare hands".

"They come with peace, they are asking for a true democracy for all," he said.

But our correspondent says the red shirts have largely lost popular support after the violence and destruction of Monday and are greatly outnumbered by the military with little chance of keeping the protests going.

Under the current state of emergency, gatherings of more than five people can be banned, media reports can be censored and the army can be deployed to help police maintain order.


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