in depth

  Q&A: Thaksin and the red shirts
  Thailand: Warring colours
  Profile: Thaksin Shinawatra
  Blog: Thailand's darkest day
  Al Jazeera speaks to both sides of the conflict
  Protesters fight for a voice
  Violence flares in capital

Red shirts stage blood protest


Bloodshed clouds Thai new year

An attempt by security forces to disperse protesters on April 10 erupted into the worst political violence Thailand has seen in almost two decades, leaving 25 people dead and more than 800 wounded.

On Monday, Abhisit Vejjajiva, the prime minister, said he would not set a deadline for protesters to be forced out of their encampment, but speculation has been growing that a crackdown is imminent.

The red shirts meanwhile have been reinforcing defences at their base, and prepared homemade weapons including hundreds of sharpened bamboo poles and broken up pavement slabs.

They have been camped out on the streets of the Thai capital since March 12, with the standoff causing widespread disruption, closing shopping malls, hotels and causing millions of dollars in losses for Thailand's vital tourism industry.

The unrest has also taken a toll on some residents' patience with some on Tuesday evening trying to chase red-shirt protesters out of their camps.

Shouting "Kill them, kill them" some residents scuffled with a man believed to be a red shirt protester.

Dialogue offer

Believing that a crackdown is imminent, red shirt leaders have said they are willing to hold talks through a third party to avert bloody clashes with troops.

Speaking to Reuters news agency two of the protest leaders said on Wednesday they would consider offers of dialogue, but not from the government.

"We believe a crackdown is coming before April 25 and we need to make a compromise," said one leader, Kwanchai Praina.

"I will propose in a meeting later today that we consider house dissolution in three months."

The red shirts consist mainly of poor rural workers pro-democracy activists who opposed the military coup that ousted the then prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, in 2006.

They want parliament dissolved immediately and new elections called.

They believe Abhisit's government is illegitimate because it came to power through a parliamentary vote after disputed court rulings ousted two elected, pro-Thaksin administrations.

The conflict has been characterised by some as class warfare, pitting the country's vast rural poor against an elite that has traditionally held power.