May 18, 2010

Thai Red shirts rebuffed on negotiation deal, Morning Star, Tuesday 18 May 2010

CLASHES: Thai troops have been "violating the law by firing live ammunition in several areas around Bangkok"

CLASHES: Thai troops have been "violating the law by firing live ammunition in several areas around Bangkok"

The Thai government has rejected a proposal from protesters for peace talks to end the deadly mayhem gripping Bangkok, saying that negotiations could not start until the democracy campaigners dispersed.

The decision dashed hopes of stemming the crisis after five days of violence that has left many people dead.

Thousands of National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) activists, mostly people from the countryside, remained camped behind barricades to press their demand for quick national elections.

Cabinet minister Satit Wonghnongtaey quoted the prime minister as saying that he welcomed negotiations to halt the violence but that "talks will happen only after the protest has ended."

Yesterday's televised comments were issued in response to an offer made earlier in the day by red shirt protest leaders, who said that they would unconditionally accept an offer by the country's senate to mediate between the two sides.

The protesters' acceptance was significant, since they had previously set conditions for any talks.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva called the senate speaker to let him know the government's position, Mr Satit said.

He added that Mr Abhisit had asked the senate to maintain contact with red shirt leaders and urge them to end their protest.

Scattered clashes continued between soldiers and the anti-government red shirts, though confrontations appeared less intense than in previous days.

Yesterday Amnesty International accused Thailand's army of "reckless use of lethal force" during the protest crackdown, which has so far left 38 dead and 279 injured.

The London-based group said that Thai troops were violating the law by firing live ammunition in several areas around Bangkok.

"Eyewitness accounts and video recordings show clearly that the military is firing live rounds at unarmed people who pose no threat whatsoever to the soldiers or to others," said Amnesty's Thailand specialist Benjamin Zawacki.

"This is a gross violation of a key human right - the right to life," Mr Zawacki said in a statement.

The right-wing government maintains that it is battling hundreds of terrorists hiding among demonstrators who it says are responsible for targeting civilians.

However, Amnesty accused army snipers of killing two medics wearing white medical uniforms as well as a 17-year-old boy.

New York-based Human Rights Watch criticised the designation of "live fire zones" by Thai authorities battling anti-government protesters this week, saying it had put them on a "slippery slope" towards serious abuse of human rights.

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