20 Apr 2010

Redshirt protesters back off to avoid army clash

9:10 pm on 20 April 2010

Opposition Redshirt protesters in Thailand have called off a planned march into the business district of the capital Bangkok.

They are trying to force Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to call snap elections and have been occupying a shopping area in the city since earlier this month.

A protest leader told reporters they had postponed the march to avoid a confrontation with the army.

Earlier, a military spokesperson said soldiers were prepared to use weapons to deal decisively with protesters. Overnight, soldiers armed with machine-guns patrolled Bangkok's business district to keep out protesters.

Redshirt supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra had threatened to march to Silom Road, a banking and office district in the capital, in defiance of an emergency decree.

Troops stood behind barbed wire and metal barricades facing protesters, who had stockpiled poles and clubs behind their lines.

Mr Thaksin urged Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to call an election immediately to end the impasse.

If Mr Abhisit resisted, there would be further crackdowns and possibly a military coup, he said.