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NEWS UPDATES 14 March 2010

Thai finance minister woos Japanese investors as red-shirts issue ultimatum

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Leaders of tens of thousands of protesters who swarmed into Bangkok from Thailand's rural areas Sunday threatened mass street demonstrations if the government didn't respond to their demand for a dissolution of Parliament within 24 hours, reported local and wire news agencies.

Earlier on Friday, Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij assured the Japanese government and private sector that the Thai government is in a position to cope with the planned mass rally by anti-government red-shirt demonstrators over the weekend.

Speaking via the Telepresence System from Japan where he is leading a Thai delegation in a road show, he said top officials and private-sector executives had joined his trip to explain doubts by Japanese investors regarding economic conditions, ongoing rallies by red-shirt protestors, and investment suspensions in the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of red-shirted protesters from Thailand's rural areas swarmed the Thai capital Sunday for protests aimed at forcing the government to dissolve Parliament and call new elections.

Traffic was light, businesses were shuttered and social events canceled in Bangkok as many feared the four-day demonstrations, which officially begin Sunday but have been building for two days as caravans of protesters pour in from the north and northeast, would repeat past violence. But protesters stressed they would use only peaceful means in their quest for new elections.

A force of 50,000 soldiers, police and other security personnel was mobilised in the capital area.

The march is regarded by some as the last chance for Thaksin to return to Thailand.

Recent polls in Bangkok indicate a large segment of the population, irrespective of their political beliefs, is fed up with the protests, which have battered the economy, including the lucrative tourism industry.


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