Thai premier agrees to meet protestors as tensions riseMarch 28th, 2010 - 2:25 pm ICT by IANS
Bangkok, March 28 (DPA) Thailand’s prime minister and anti-government protest leaders agreed to talk Sunday in an effort to defuse political tensions that turned violent on the weekend.
Officials said Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), were set to meet at 4 p.m.
Demonstrators who had gathered outside the 11th Infantry Regiment compound in Bangkok to pressure Abhisit to resign and call new elections were called back to the main protest area in the old part of the city, UDD leader Nattwuth Saikuer said.
Before dawn Sunday, unknown assailants fired two grenades that wounded at least four soldiers at the base.
Abhisit, who has set up temporary offices at the 11th Regiment, had said he was willing to negotiate, but not under duress. On Sunday, he agreed to meet protest leaders, the government-run Thai News Agency reported.
The talks would be broadcast live on television, Prime Minister’s Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey said.
The government will also speed up an investigation into the attack at the army base, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said.
The early morning attack followed several grenade attacks in other parts of Bangkok Saturday night, including one at the state-owned NBT television station that wounded at least four people, local media reported.
Four others were wounded in a grenade attack on Channel 5 television, which is run by the army, and a grenade exploded at the Customs Department.
Suthep said the government Saturday redeployed army soldiers from eight high-risk parts of town back to their barracks, to avoid confrontation with anti-government protestors.
The protestors gathered in Bangkok March 12 and their numbers have swelled to nearly 100,000 on some days, but most of the time have numbered in the tens of thousands at most.
The government has imposed a security act in Bangkok and two surrounding provinces, which puts crowd control under the military and allows the government to bar protests in certain sensitive spots.
Thaksin Shinawatra, the fugitive former premier who was ousted by a coup in 2006 and is now one of the UDD’s key ringleaders, has urged his followers to step up protests in Bangkok and the provinces in phoned-in messages to their rallies from abroad.
Thaksin is based in Dubai, fleeing a two-year prison sentence on a conviction of abusing power as prime minister.
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Tags: 11th infantry regiment, army base, army soldiers, assailants, channel 5, customs department, deputy prime minister, duress, grenade attack, grenade attacks, office minister, political tensions, protest area, protest leaders, protestors, television station, temporary offices, thai news agency, udd, united front