Former Prime Minister Abhisit, who met Armed Forces Supreme
Commander General Thanasak Patimaprakorn, has asked for two weeks to
try to resolve the crisis peacefully.
"He supports what I want, which is to bring all sides together to
find a way out for the country," Abhisit told reporters after a
two-hour meeting with Thanasak.
"The commander underscored that political problems must be solved
through political means."
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has faced months of
anti-government protests aimed at removing her and ridding the
country of the influence of her brother, former premier Thaksin
The protests are the latest phase of nearly a decade of
confrontation between Thaksin and the Bangkok-based royalist
establishment who see Thaksin, a populist former telecoms tycoon, as
a threat to their interests.
The protesters accuse Thaksin of corruption and nepotism, which he
denies. They want an unelected "people's council" to oversee reforms
to tackle graft and end what they see as Thaksin's money politics.
Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup and lives in
self-imposed exile to avoid a jail sentence for graft handed down in
2008, remains hugely popular among the rural poor in the north and
The military, which has intervened frequently in politics in the
past, has stayed out this time, although its leaders have said they
will intervene if violence worsens.
Twenty-five people have been killed in politically related violence
since the unrest began in November, most of them in shootings and
The turmoil has dented business confidence, especially as Yingluck
has headed a caretaker government with limited powers since
dissolving parliament in December.
Data on Monday showed that industrial output in March was 10.4
percent lower than in March last year.
Later, the Commerce Ministry released data showing exports fell 3.12
percent in March from a year earlier due to a lackluster global
economy, while imports were down 14.19 percent.
The central bank has warned that the economy could contract in the
first quarter compared with the final three months of 2013. It has
cut its 2014 growth forecast several times and said last week it
would probably fall short of its most recent forecast of 2.7
[to top of second column]
Yingluck's government triggered the protests late last year by
trying to push through an amnesty bill that could have allowed
Thaksin to return without facing jail time. The demonstrations
quickly turned into a bid to oust Yingluck.
The rallies have waned in recent weeks but that has not deterred
protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who has promised a "final push" to
oust Yingluck in May.
The protesters are also pinning their hopes on legal cases that
could lead to Yingluck's removal from office within weeks.
She has been charged with abuse of power for her transfer of
National Security Council chief Thawil Pliensri in 2011, which
opponents say was done for personal and party political reasons. If
found guilty, she may have to step down.
Yingluck has until Friday to present her defense.
She also faces charges of dereliction of duty over a state rice
subsidy scheme that has incurred billions of dollars in losses and
left hundreds of thousands of farmers unpaid.
But supporters of the Shinawatras have vowed to resist efforts to
unseat Yingluck and they plan a big rally on the outskirts of
Bangkok on May 6. Both sides can whip up large crowds and both have
armed activists in their ranks.
Abhisit, who has taken part in some of anti-government rallies,
launched his reconciliation bid saying he wanted to avert more
But his proposal for an election to take place alongside political
reforms has met with a lukewarm response from both pro-government
leaders and protest leader Suthep.
The cabinet on Monday extended an Internal Security Act in Bangkok
and surrounding provinces until June 30. It allows the authorities
to impose curfews, operate checkpoints and restrict the movement of
However, it has done little to curb the protests and the government
has been reluctant to use force against protesters for fear of a
(Additional reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomyat and Panarat
Thepgumpanat; editing by Alan Raybould and Robert Birsel)
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