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Page last updated at 08:06 GMT, Tuesday, 13 April 2010 09:06 UK

Thailand's 'red' protesters say PM Abhisit must quit

Red-shirt protesters in Bangkok, Thailand (13 April 2010)
The protesters have occupied parts of Bangkok for a month

Thailand's anti-government protesters have said they will not end their protests until the government resigns.

The protesters, who withstood a failed army crackdown at the weekend, have rejected the government's latest offer to dissolve parliament in six months.

Autopsies on some of those killed in Saturday's crackdown, showing they were shot at close range, have added to the mutual recriminations.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has rejected calls to step down.

Thailand is due to begin the first of three days of holidays to mark the Thai New Year - called Songkran.

One protest leader said the red-shirt demonstrators would take part in the festivities.

We will achieve our goal when Abhisit dissolves parliament
Nattawut Saikuar, protest leader

But another said that they might march on Wednesday to the military base in Bangkok where Mr Abhisit has been staying during the crisis.

They have been camped out at various sites in Bangkok for a month.

The protesters said they were happy with Monday's surprise announcement by the Electoral Commission that it recommended the dissolution of the ruling Democrat Party over funding irregularities.

"We are satisfied, but the election commission's decision does not affect our rally," said a protest leader, Nattawut Saikuar.

"We will achieve our goal when Abhisit dissolves parliament," he told reporters.

"We want him to dissolve the House and have new elections, so people will decide the government."

This demand appeared to be echoed on Monday by General Anupong Paojinda, commander in chief of the armed forces.

He said the only solution to the country's political impasse was a dissolution of parliament, something Mr Abhisit is still trying to avoid.

Tough talk

The Thai foreign minister, on a visit to Washington, has suggested there was still room for compromise, something the protesters have repeatedly ruled out.

Speaking on the sidelines of a nuclear summit, Kasit Piromya said he was "optimistic" that all sides would be "coming to the negotiating table in the course of the next few days".

Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva addresses national television on 12 April 2010

He also attacked former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra - a focus for some red-shirt protesters since he was deposed in a military coup in 2006.

"Everyone is washing their hands but he is a bloody terrorist," Mr Kasit said of Mr Thaksin, accusing foreign countries of not helping the current Thai government to catch Mr Thaksin, who was sentenced in absentia to two years in jail for corruption.

Analysts say the Election Commission's decision may have the effect of forcing an earlier House dissolution as a way for the Democrat Party - Thailand's oldest - to save itself.

Mr Abhisit says he is focusing on investigating the violence on Saturday in a fair and transparent manner, while blaming an undefined group of "terrorists" for the clashes.

Seventeen civilians died in the unrest - including a Japanese cameraman working for Reuters news agency. At least four soldiers were also killed and 800 other people were injured.



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