The Thai government turned to seige tactics Wednesday after fruitless efforts to compromise with protesters barricaded in central Bangkok, announcing that the army would limit supplies of water, food and electricity to the protest zone.
Army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said security forces would "not use force at this stage," but his wording left open the possibility of more violence in Thailand's two-month political standoff if the Red Shirt protesters refuse to disperse. "This is a full-scale measure to limit the freedom of protesters and to close down the area 100 percent, starting at midnight," Sansern said.
The new measures were announced a day after Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva warned protesters who have paralyzed Bangkok's central business district to leave by Wednesday.
The anti-government protests have crippled the capital's ritziest shopping district, forced the closure of several luxury hotels and devastated the economy, particularly the vital tourism sector. "Electricity and water supply, as well as food, will be limited," Sansern said, warning that residents who live in the neighborhood's upmarket high-rise apartments should consider alternate accommodations.
Chances of a negotiated settlement to the standoff appeared to be unraveling.
Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said late Tuesday that the prime minister had rescinded his compromise offer to hold early elections on Nov. 14 as part of a reconciliation plan. "He said there will no longer be any more compromises or conditions," Panitan told The Associated Press late Tuesday. "Their refusal to stop the protest meant that the conditions that were set are being canceled, including the election date." The protesters vowed to hold their ground.
"The Prime Minister must not threaten us and must not disperse us," said one protest leader, Weng Tojirakarn. "If he wants more deaths, so be it. I don't."
Several violent incidents related to the Red Shirt protest, which started March 12, have killed 29 people and wounded more than 1,400, according to the Health Ministry.