Bangkok shut down to scale back

LINDSAY MURDOCH
Last updated 06:39 01/03/2014
thailand
REUTERS

THE PAINFUL COST: Thayakorn Yosubon, the father of a pair of siblings killed in a bomb blast near an anti-government protest site on Sunday, mourns as their coffins are moved during their funeral ceremony at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok February 24, 2014. The six-year-old sister of a boy killed in a bomb blast in the Thai capital died on Monday, doctors said, taking the death toll to three from the latest incident in a conflict that has burst into episodic violence.

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The shut down of key parts of the Thai capital will end on Monday, an anti-government protest leader announced on Friday night.

Suthep Thaugsuban said protesters from Monday will consolidate their resources at one location in Bangkok's central Lumpini park.

The number of full-time protesters occupying four other sites at key intersections of the city has dwindled to about 4,000 in the past few weeks.

At the height of protests more than 100,000 people took to the streets to demand the resignation of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who declared on Friday she was "ready to die" to stand up for Thailand's democracy.

Protesters would gather in Lumpini park each day to plan their protests that have in the past week centred on businesses linked the wealthy Shinawatra family, Mr Suthep said.

Mr Suthep said his movement was not giving up its struggle.

In the worst incident last Sunday evening a grenade explosion killed two children and injured more than 20 people, some seriously, in an area popular with foreign tourists. But the closing of protest sites at Asoke, Sala Daeng, Phatthumwan and Ratchaprasong will be seen as a retreat by the protesters after increasing violent attacks by unknown assailants.

The occupation of the sites by protesters sleeping in tents has severely disrupted traffic flows and business in the city.

Speaking during a visit to northern Thailand where she has strong support, Ms Yingluck, Thailand's first woman prime minister, said Mr Suthep must first end the protests before she could begin talks with him.

Mr Suthep has earlier suggested that he and Ms Yingluck hold a televised debate.

"I'm also the defence minister, meaning I'm like a soldier who has to do his duty until the last minute," the Nation newspaper quoted Ms Yingluck as saying.

"A soldier has to keep the last stronghold and die on the battlefield. I will die in the democratic battlefield," she said.

Thailand's military and key Thai leaders have warned the country faces collapse into chaos unless a way is found to reconcile warring groups.

The violence that has left 21 people dead and more than 800 injured in broad terms pits two groups of Thai elite against each other, one led by Ms Yingluck's elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra who is backed by rural masses and the other led by influential figures in Bangkok who have the support of the city's middle class and royalists.

Mr Thaksin, a former prime minister ousted in a 2006 coup, lives in exile to avoid a jail sentence for corruption.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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