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Thai protesters offer ceasefire

[ 2010-05-18 14:15]     字号 [] [] []  
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The Thai government said it would accept a ceasefire offer from a red shirt protest leader on Monday if their fighters return to their camp in central Bangkok, as street battles that have killed 37 people raged for a fifth day.

The offer came during a telephone conversation between red shirt leader Nattawut Saikuwa, who called the government's chief negotiator, Korbsak Sabhavasu, on his cell phone. It was the first direct talks between the two sides since the fighting started on Thursday.

Nattawut's response was not immediately known. Calls to his phone went unanswered.

Earlier, an estimated 5,000 of the anti-government protesters hunkered down, listening to fiery political speeches and largely ignoring a 3 pm (0800 GMT) deadline to leave the encampment in a commercial district.

Unrest still flared in various parts of the downtown area outside the barricades, with troops firing live ammunition at protesters who were lighting tires to hide their positions. The thick smoke darkened the sky.

The red shirts, many of whom hail from the impoverished north and northeast, are trying to unseat Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and force immediate elections.

Previous attempts to negotiate an end to the two-month standoff have failed.

A government offer earlier this month to hold November elections floundered after protest leaders made more demands.

Korbsak told reporters that he talked to Nattawut for five minutes, during which the red shirt leader proposed a ceasefire.

He said he told Nattawut that the army will stop shooting if he calls his fighters back from the streets to the core protest site.

"If they call their people back to Rajprasong there will be no single bullet fired by the soldiers," he said, referring to the 3-sq-km protest area occupied by the red shirts in a ritzy commercial district of the capital.

The Rajprasong area is encircled by troops in a wide perimeter, and protesters have spilled out into surrounding streets that have become a battleground.

At least 37 people have been killed in the violence and more than 250 injured.

Around the city, people were hoarding food, while hotels were

pleading for guests to leave.

As fighting subsided in some areas, residents and tourists in the commercial district were seen leaving while they could, with luggage and children in tow. Chulalongkorn Hospital, adjacent to the encampment, had evacuated all of its patients.

Fighting near the encampment was intense overnight. A rocket hit the 14th floor of the Dusit Thani Hotel, a Reuters photographer said, triggering gunfire in the pitch darkness, since power had been cut to the area.

The death on Monday of a renegade major-general who was the red shirts' military adviser, and an embarrassment to the military, threatened to further stoke tensions.

Major General Khattiya Sawasdipol, better known as Seh Daeng (Commander Red), had been shot in the head by a sniper on

Thursday, a shooting that fuelled the latest violence in a five-year crisis pitting the rural and urban poor against the "establishment elite" that traditionally runs Thailand.

At least 37 people have been killed and 266 injured since then, according to Erawan Emergency Medical Centre.

Protest leader Jatuporn Prompan earlier told supporters in the encampment, including women and children: "The king's glorious mercy is the country's only hope now."


1. how many red shirts are left in the city?

2. What triggered the intense fighting?

3. How many have died?


1. 5,000.

2. Death of Major General Khattiya Sawasdipol.

3. 37.


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Thai protesters offer ceasefire

Thai protesters offer ceasefire

Todd Balazovic is a reporter for the Metro Section of China Daily. Born in Mineapolis Minnesota in the US, he graduated from Central Michigan University and has worked for the China daily for one year.