Thailand's Cabinet was due to hold an emergency meeting today in the face of unrelenting anti-government street protests that have blocked off much of the capital and raised fears of broader civil unrest across the country.
With negotiations between the protesters and the government on hold and hopes for a peaceful end to the standoff dwindling, calls have grown for international mediators to be involved.
Government spokesman Panithan Wattanayagorn said yesterday the Cabinet would meet today morning in a special session. The agenda was widely expected to focus on the seven-week crisis that has paralysed parts of Bangkok.
In recent days, pro-establishment protesters have called on the government to declare martial law and crack down on the Red Shirt protesters, whose barricaded camp occupies streets in Bangkok's commercial centre.
The Red Shirts are demanding the government disband Parliament and call elections, and they said yesterday they would ignore any imposition of martial law.
"Even if they announce that we are not going to go home, we are going to stay put," said Nattawut Saikua, a Red Shirt leader.
At least 27 people have been killed and nearly 1,000 wounded in sporadic violence between protesters and security forces.