Red Shirts want ministers prosecuted

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The Independent Online

Anti-government activists who have paralysed parts of Bangkok for two months said they would accept plans for an election in November but they would continue their protests until the Prime Minister and his deputy faced criminal charges over deadly street violence.

"We are willing to co-operate in the road map," said Nattawut Saikua, one of the leaders of the so-called "Red Shirt" protesters, referring to last week's proposal by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva that included measures for an attempt at reconciliation.

Mr Nattawut blamed the Deputy Prime Minister, Suthep Thaugsuban, for violence that left 29 people dead and hundreds wounded. Mr Suthep played a key role in the government's security response to the protests.

"The day Suthep turns himself in to police is the day we the Red Shirts go home," Mr Nattawut told cheering crowds. Another protest leader, Jatuporn Prompan, said Mr Abhisit should also be prosecuted. The Prime Minister pleaded at the weekend for an end to street protests that have crippled parts of the capital, and urged the Red Shirts to accept his reconciliation plan offering new elections a year ahead of schedule.

Mr Nattawut began his address by saying the Red Shirts "unconditionally accept" Mr Abhisit's offer to dissolve parliament in late September ahead of an election. He went on to list a number of demands, including that Mr Suthep must turn himself in for prosecution in connection with a violent clash on 10 April in which 26 soldiers and civilians were killed.

He also demanded that the Red Shirts' television channel be allowed back on air before they end their protests. The protesters say Mr Abhisit's coalition government came to power illegitimately through manipulation of the courts and the backing of the powerful military. But all sides are weary of the stand-off, which began on 12 March. ap