Let the games begin!karuna
Thailand's elite-backed Yellow Shirts have threatened to take action if the government fails to deal with red-clad protesters within a week, raising fears of clashes between the rival groups.
The ultimatum comes as the military vows to punish anti-government protesters if they marched on Bangkok's central business district.
Red-shirted protesters will face resistance if they protest or try to set up camp in the city's banking district this week in defiance of an emergency decree in place across the capital, the army said.
Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd stopped short of using the word "crackdown" but said protesters occupying a plush shopping and hotel district for a 16th day would also be dealt with. He did not elaborate and gave no timeframe.
The Red Shirts, who mainly support ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, have occupied the capital for over a month with their anti-government campaign, which led to clashes with security forces last weekend leaving 25 people dead.
Thailand is largely split between the poor and rural Reds and the pro-establishment Yellows, who hit the streets ahead of a 2006 coup that ousted their enemy Thaksin and again to see off his allies in 2008.
The Yellows had remained largely silent since the Reds began mass rallies in mid-March demanding immediate elections, but they held a meeting of 3,000 to 5,000 supporters Sunday to discuss a response to the crisis.
"In seven days we hope that the government will deal with the terrorists from Thaksin immediately, otherwise we will show our voice to protect the country and the royal family," said Parnthep Pourpongpan, a spokesman for the Yellow group formally known as the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD).
The Yellows are calling on the Reds "to value their own lives by not making any untrue statements saying that the government killed the people," Mr Parnthep said.
"The Red Shirts should save their lives by stopping the rally," he said, adding that the PAD's actions would be "according to the constitution".
Yellow protesters in 2008 blockaded Bangkok's two main airports, leading to to a controversial court verdict that ousted Thaksin's allies and allowed a parliamentary vote that brought in the current government.
The Reds, who are campaigning against Thailand's elite in palace, military and bureaucratic circles, say the government's rise to power was illegitimate.
The authorities have so far failed to bring an end to the Reds' mass rallies. A botched attempt to clear areas occupied by the demonstrators triggered the country's deadliest civil unrest in 18 years last weekend.
The government has asked the police's special investigation unit to probe the bloodshed, blaming "terrorists" for inciting violence and accusing Thaksin, who lives abroad to avoid a jail term for graft, of stoking the unrest.
The Reds meanwhile announced plans on Sunday to step up their campaign for snap polls by boosting their numbers on Tuesday in the commercial area they are currently occupying in the heart of the city.
They have so far ignored calls by the authorities to disperse from the shopping heartland, despite security forces being positioned on top of the area's skyscrapers and outstanding arrest warrants in place against core leaders.
Leader Nattawut Saikuar said on Saturday 24 senior Reds would hand themselves over to police on May 15 to avoid another attempt to forcibly arrest them after a bungled operation Friday, but he added that they would seek bail.
"For now the 24 of us will keep rallying to show sincerely that we won't run away," he said.
"I'm sure the order to suppress us will come out soon."
Embattled premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, who cancelled his weekly television broadcast Sunday for unclear reasons, has handed broader powers to his army chief Anupong Paojinda to disperse the protesting crowds.
Emergency services confirmed on Sunday that the death toll from the clashes had increased to 25, while more than 800 people were also wounded.
- AFP/Reutershttp://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010 ... 876021.htm