Page last updated at 10:51 GMT, Monday, 12 April 2010 11:51 UK

Thailand army chief calls for parliament dissolution


Red-shirt protesters paraded coffins through Bangkok

Thailand's army chief has called for parliament to be dissolved, two days after deadly fighting between troops and anti-government protesters.

Gen Anupong Paojinda said that a political solution had to be found to Thailand's crisis.

His comments appeared to echo calls from the protesters for the government to step down and call elections.

But speaking afterwards, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said his government and the military remained united.

Speaking to journalists, Gen Anupong said he was reluctant to use force to end the stand-off.

"It must be ended by political means," he said. "The problem will be resolved with House dissolution, but when to dissolve depends on the outcome of negotiations."

Mr Abhisit appeared on television shortly afterwards blaming "terrorists" for inciting the unrest, and stressing what he called good co-operative work between the government, the army, the police and the coalition parties.

He also said an investigation would take place into weekend violence, which left 21 people dead.

Seventeen of those killed in Saturday's violent clashes were civilians and included a Japanese cameraman who worked for Reuters. Four soldiers were killed and about 800 people were injured.

Correspondents say Gen Anupong's comments suggest divisions within the armed forces and the government persist.


Early on Monday the anti-government protesters, known as red-shirts, paraded coffins through Bangkok.

Vaudine England
Vaudine England, BBC reporter in Bangkok

General Anupong Prachinda said a House dissolution was the best end to the political impasse and insisted there would be no use of force against the protesters.

Analysts are not surprised that Gen Anupong is taking this line - he wants a soft landing, they say, after his retirement planned for this September. But the timing of the comments give them more weight. They also echo opposition demands for new elections, two days after an army crackdown on the opposition failed.

The general's comments appeared to spark a near instant response from Prime Minister Abhisit, who clearly felt the need to assert that his government was united and would last.

Most of the coffins were empty, but at least two contained the bodies of demonstrators killed in clashes with the security forces.

Both sides accuse each other of firing live bullets during the confrontation.

Jatuporn Prompan, one of the red-shirts' leaders, told a rally that Mr Abhisit's hands were "bloodied" by the clashes.

"Red-shirts will never negotiate with murderers," he announced from a makeshift stage.

"Although the road is rough and full of obstacles, it's our duty to honour the dead by bringing democracy to this country."

The red-shirts still control important intersections in the city and are increasingly confident after withstanding the security forces' attempt to move them back, the BBC's Quentin Sommerville reports from the Thai capital.

But there was little sign of renewed clashes in the city on Monday, with shops reopening and the rail network running again.

Many rural dwellers and urban poor support red-shirts, while yellow-shirts comprise mainly middle classes and urban elite
In September 2008 yellows rally against government, reds counter-rally, clashes in Bangkok
Yellows blockade airport in November 2008, government collapses, yellow-friendly government installed
In April 2009 red protests halt Asean summit, two people die in Bangkok clashes, rallies called off
Reds relaunch protests in March 2010, splash blood on government buildings, march on parliament

The red-shirts - a loose coalition of left-wing activists and supporters of former leader Thaksin Shinawatra - say Mr Abhisit came to power illegitimately in a parliamentary vote after a pro-Thaksin government was forced to step down in 2008. Mr Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006.

They have been camped out in Bangkok for a month and have refused to leave until their demands for fresh elections are met.

A state of emergency was declared on Wednesday, days after they occupied Bangkok's commercial district, forcing shops and hotels to close.

The protests had been peaceful until late last week, when tensions rose over the government's decision to block an opposition television station.

Saturday's clashes - which erupted when troops tried to clear protesters from a downtown area - was the country's worst political violence since 1992.

Unconfirmed reports in local newspapers on Monday said political parties in the coalition government were pressuring Mr Abhisit to compromise with the protesters by dissolving parliament in the next six months instead of by the end of the year, as he had earlier promised.

A government spokesman said a line of communication was open with the red-shirts, but that organising formal talks would be "difficult".

Mr Abhisit has already held a round of talks with the red-shirts but these ended without agreement.

Bangkok map

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