Thailand prepares for more ‘Red Shirt’ rallies

Thailand extended a tough security
law for another week after opposition protest leaders called for a
“historic rally” to paralyze Bangkok in a bid to force an election
that appears no closer to succeeding.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva
said the Internal Security Act will continue to be enforced in Bangkok and
surrounding districts until 30 March.

The law allows authorities to set
up checkpoints, impose curfews and restrict movement.
Mr Abhisit also said the government would like to engage in talks with
red-shirt protesters, but ere must be no preconditions.
“The framework for the talks must be clear,” he said.
The National Human Rights Commission and a senator have offered to mediate a
settlement between the government and the red-shirts, but the protesters have
rejected both offers, he said.

“The government will continue
to look for other negotiation channels,” he added.
Protest leaders, allied with ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, have not
revealed details of their plans for the rally on Saturday and whether the
demonstrators will fan out across the city as at least 65,000 of them did at
the weekend.

Abhisit has refused to call an
early election, which the Thaksin-allied Puea Thai Party would be well-placed
to win. That scenario presents a risk to investors and raises the chance of
another judicial or military intervention to keep Thaksin and his allies out of
the corridors of power.

Abhisit insists the deep political
divisions would undermine any chance of peaceful polls if an election were held
now. His critics say he and his backers are clinging on to power.

Puea Thai on Tuesday followed the
“red shirts” in calling for parliamentary dissolution. Members
planned to meet partners in Abhisit’s uneasy coalition to discuss a political
solution, said party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.

Key coalition partners reiterated
their stance on Tuesday that they have no plan to break away from the alliance
amid speculation that Puea Thai would try to bring them on board.