Thai Protesters Consider Offer of Early Elections, But Wary of Leaving Camp

BY Larisa Epatko  May 4, 2010 at 2:33 PM EDT


Protesters listen to speeches inside encampment in Bangkok. Photo by Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images

Thailand’s Red Shirt protesters on Tuesday cautiously welcomed the government’s proposal to hold early elections on Nov. 14 in exchange for the protesters leaving their encampment in downtown Bangkok, which has disrupted business and civilian life for two months.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva proposed the new election date Monday night. Protest leaders said they welcomed negotiations and early elections but wanted to see more details — including setting a date for the dissolution of the government — before they disband.

“We want to negotiate. All of us unanimously agree that we must enter into negotiations and we want to save a lot of lives. However, we want a little bit of sincerity,” said Sean Boonpracong, a protest spokesman, The Associated Press reported.

The political standoff and clashes between riot police and protesters, who say the current government is illegitimate, have killed 27 people and injured nearly 1,000.

Although a deal appears forthcoming, GlobalPost’s Bangkok correspondent Patrick Winn told us by phone Tuesday that the protesters are wary about leaving their posts. “As soon as they release all of their followers to go home, then the areas they are occupying can be reclaimed by soldiers, can be reclaimed by civilians and shopkeepers and all the people who normally inhabit those areas, and then they don’t have any bargaining chips because they will have already dispersed,” he said. “So they’re waiting to get all their ducks in a row before they finally call the thing off.”

Dismantling the encampment, which resembles a little village nestled in Bangkok’s financial district, would take about a day, said Winn. After visiting the site on Tuesday, he said the number of protesters appears to be dwindling.

But “just because the Red Shirts are going home doesn’t mean that Thailand politically will return to a state of normalcy,” he said. “These coming elections will likely bring more turmoil, and I don’t think we’ve seen the last of political protests that paralyze Bangkok.”

Hear more of our conversation here: