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Thai leader says no to martial law

Weeks of protests stir calls for crackdown

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand’s prime minister said today that he had no plans to declare martial law despite growing demands the government take firmer measures to end protests that have paralyzed parts of Bangkok for seven weeks.

Many Thais have grown increasingly frustrated with the stalemate, which has claimed the lives of at least 27 people, cost the country tens of millions of dollars, and sparked concerns of a flare-up of civil unrest.

Speaking ahead of an emergency Cabinet meeting expected to address the crisis, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the government had a plan for ending the crisis – but he declined to say what it was.

“I insist that the government has a clear approach,” he said in his weekly television address. “All responsibilities rest with me. Every decision has been made. At the moment it’s at the stage of execution for the most successful outcome.”

Abhisit did not elaborate on what those decisions were, though he expressed willingness to make some compromises.

“Those violating the law must cease, whereas the government should not ignore the political demands,” he said.

The Red Shirts, who view the government as an illegitimate puppet of Bangkok’s urban elite and the military, are demanding Abhisit resign, dissolve Parliament and call new elections.

Abhisit has publicly suspended talks with the protesters but says he still hopes a political solution will persuade the thousands of so-called Red Shirts to abandon the barricaded encampment they have set up in the streets of the capital. He has not ruled out a crackdown, which would almost certainly add to the bloodshed.

But Abhisit said today he was reluctant to give in to demands from a group of pro-establishment protesters who have called for a declaration of martial law.


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