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NEWS UPDATES 28 March 2010

Thai national TV broadcast ‘peace’ talks between PM and Red Shirt leaders

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Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva held so called ‘peace’ talks with red shirts leaders at King Prachadipok's Institute, an academic institute on the outskirts of Bangkok, on Sunday.

The meeting took place after the protesters rallied in front of the 11th Infantry Regiment in Bangkhen, which broadcast on national television.

Abhisit was accompanied by his secretery general Korbsak Sapavasu and Democrat MP Chamni Sakdiset. On the red shirts side are Jatuporn Prompan, Weng Tohjirakarn and Veera Musikapong.

The talks, which started around 4pm local time, focused on parliament dissolution, a key demand by the red shirts, and the 2007 constitution drawn and enforced during the military government through a referendum.

"To find a way to restore peace and minimize the chance of violence, the prime minister has accepted the condition to negotiate with the protesters," a member of Abhisit's staff said in a brief televised announcement.

Abhisit had said earlier that talks would not be held under pressure, but later agreed to enter the talks after the red shirts, who rallied outside the 11th Infantry Regiment, dispersed.

It came amid growing concerns of clashes in what so far has been a nonviolent bid to bring down the government. Four Thai soldiers were wounded early Sunday when two grenades were fired into the army barracks at the Regiment that is serving as Abhisit's base, Thai media reported.

More than a dozen explosions have hit government targets since the protests began, including attacks on two television stations and the customs department on Saturday that wounded at least eight, according to the Thai news agency, TNN.

The protesters consist largely of supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a 2006 military coup for alleged corruption, and pro-democracy activists who opposed the army takeover. Critics say the protesters are merely pawns serving Thaksin's ambitions to return to power.

The Red Shirts drew international attention earlier this month with a "blood sacrifice" in which they collected blood from supporters and splattered it at the gates of Abhisit's office, the headquarters of his ruling party and his private residence.


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