05/03/2010, 00.00
THAILAND
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Thai PM proposes roadmap for reconciliation and new elections

Abhisit Vejjajiva is said to adopt a plan to dissolve parliament and call for new elections before the previous nine-month deadline. Proposal would include setting up a new committee that would rewrite the constitution. Red-shirt protesters continue their action. International think tank says Thailand is close to “undeclared civil war”.
Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva plans to unveil a national reconciliation roadmap, which he says will end the eight-week political stalemate with the red-shirt protesters, the Bangkok Post reports. The plan would include bringing forward the dissolution of parliament and new elections. For the moment, demonstrators are not planning to leave the capital’s shopping district, where they have set up their headquarters. However, they have taken down barricades to ease access to the hospital they stormed last Friday.

The PM’s road map will be released “within one or two days”; it should speed up the dissolution of parliament. The prime minister had initially proposed to red-shirt leaders to hold elections in nine months time.

Abhisit said that “reconciliation” was his first objective, but stressed the need that a new vote be held within the law.

Sources close the Prime Minister’s Office said that the reconciliation plan includes setting up a committee that would rewrite the constitution.

The new constitution would be a mix of elements from the 1997 and 2007 charters. The ruling Democrat Party and its yellow-shirt supporters want to keep the 2007 charter. The red-shirted United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) and the main opposition party, Puea Thai, are demanding that the 1997 charter be reinstated.

The cabinet yesterday approved a special budget to pay police to deal with the protesters and avoid bloodshed.

The government also told the police to increase the number of checkpoints surrounding the main demonstration site from six to nine.

Despite the danger of further clashes, the UDD and red-shirt leaders are not planning to stop their protest, which began in mid-March and has so far led to the death of 27 people and the injury of more than 900.

As a gesture of good will, demonstrators did push aside their tyre and bamboo barricades from a hospital on the edge of their encampment to allow it to reopen.

On Friday, a group of red-shirt protesters had stormed the facility searching for solders, an act condemned by the government but also by opposition leaders.

Meanwhile, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has warned, “The stand-off in the streets of Bangkok between the government and `red shirt' protesters is worsening and could deteriorate into an undeclared civil war”.

For the conflict-resolution think tank, forming a neutral negotiation committee might be the only way to address the problem, with help from international figures such as East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel peace laureate.

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