Thai PM Agrees To Meet Red Shirt Leaders

Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has agreed to meet leaders of an anti-government protest movement in a move to defuse growing tensions and avert possible confrontation.

Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has agreed to meet leaders of an anti-government protest movement in a move to defuse growing tensions and avert possible confrontation.

Mr Abhisit has repeatedly refused to call a new election, frustrating the "red shirts" who back twice-elected former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. He agreed to meet their leaders if tens of thousands of demonstrators move away from the military base where he has been staying.

"To bring back the peace and to avoid possible violence and confrontation, the prime minister has accepted the protesters' proposal to talk," Prime Minister's Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey told local television.

Mr Abhisit, who analysts say is unlikely to agree to their demands, was not at the base and was attending a meeting of his Democrat Party in the resort town of Hua Hin.

After two weeks of peaceful rallies, the "red shirts" have stepped up their campaign to topple the government with a new level of brinkmanship that has raised tensions and stoked fears of clashes between demonstrators and security forces.

They were close to entering the compound of Abhisit's office on Saturday after thousands of troops packed up and left eight sites around the city's historic heart in another bid to avoid confrontation.

The "red shirts" have taken aim at the military and so-called bureaucratic elites they say are meddling in politics and conspired to overthrow Thaksin in 2006.

The lack of violence combined with Abhisit's steadfast military backing has encouraged foreign investors lured by cheap shares with high dividend yields to pour into Thailand's stock market in recent weeks.

On Friday, foreigners bought Thai stocks for a 24th straight session, spending a net 1.01 billion baht ($34.5 million).

They have purchased about 47 billion baht since February 22 as hot money continues to flow into regional bourses.

Source: Reuters