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Back-up plan to solve crisis:

Thai PM demands quick end to protests

THAILAND: Thailand’s Premier called Sunday for a swift end to mass anti-government protests following fresh bloodshed, saying he had a back-up plan to solve the crisis if the demonstrators refuse to disperse.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva demanded the opposition “Red Shirts” give a “clear answer” by Monday on whether they will accept his offer to hold elections in mid-November if they disperse within the next few days.

“You should stop the rally quickly for safety reasons,” said Abhisit, whose reconciliation “roadmap” aims to defuse a crippling two-month confrontation and envisages holding elections on November 14.

“Terrorists and people who live abroad want to disrupt the reconciliation plan,” he said on national television.

“No matter whether they (the protesters) stop the rally or not, we have a back-up plan which will lead to a resolution of the problem,” he added.

The Government and the “Red Shirt” opposition protesters Saturday reaffirmed their commitment to a reconciliation process aimed at ending outbreaks of civil violence that have left 29 people dead and about 1,000 injured.

The latest casualties were two police officers who were killed in gun and grenade attacks on Friday and Saturday close to the Red Shirts’ massive rally encampment, which has shut down most of Bangkok’s main shopping district.

The opposition protesters denied involvement in the attacks and nobody has claimed responsibility.

The Reds, who broadly support fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, were working on their own proposals to end the political crisis after thousands more supporters bolstered their rally in the heart of Bangkok.

Thaksin, a telecoms tycoon-turned-politician, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, now lives in exile to avoid a jail sentence for corruption.

The Red Shirts have signed up to the peace process but are demanding a firm date for the dissolution of parliament before disbanding their base, where they are barricaded behind piles of fuel-soaked tyres and razor wire.

Both sides said the attacks were the work of groups intent on derailing Abhisit’s peace roadmap. The premier said the latest attacks were “carried out by terrorists who don’t want the reconciliation plan.”

The Reds also said the latest killings were carried out by elements intent on sabotaging the peace proposals. “This will not distract us or derail the process,” Reds leader Nattawut Saikuar said Saturday. However, he indicated that an agreement was not yet within reach.

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