The protesters have blocked some streets since mid-January in
their bid to push out Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and
eradicate the influence of her brother, ex-premier Thaksin
Shinawatra, seen as the real power in Thailand.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban's supporters are to move to Lumpini
Park, where many protesters already sleep in tents near an
established protest stage on the edge of the Silom financial
The tents are slowly filling up the park, most under the shade of
trees and blue awnings and next to boating lakes, with washing lines
strung between branches.
"We will stop closing Bangkok and give every intersection back to
Bangkokians. We will stop closing Bangkok from Monday," Suthep told
supporters on Friday.
"But we will escalate our shutdown of government ministries and
Protesters plan a big cleaning-up day on Sunday before opening roads
on Monday but at least two affiliated groups plan to stay put at
their protest sites, including one led by a controversial Buddhist
"I was angry with Suthep's announcement," monk Luang Pu Buddha
Issara told Reuters. "We have lost blood and lives and for what? To
end it all now?"
Protest numbers have dwindled amid attacks on various camps with
grenades and guns. Three people were killed when a grenade was
thrown into a busy shopping area near one camp on Sunday.
In total, 20 people have been killed in protest-related violence in
Bangkok since November 30 and three in the eastern province of Trat.
The threat of violence has taken a toll on tourism in the capital,
even though most areas have been unaffected, including the old part
of town by the river and the Khao San Road backpacker district
frequented by westerners, many of whom, regardless of age, dress
"Business is good here. As good as ever. There is no politics here,"
a restaurant worker said on Friday.
DEBATE PROPOSAL REJECTED
Labor Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung on Friday rejected a Suthep
proposal for a television debate with Yingluck, who media on
Saturday quoted as saying was ready to die for democracy.
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"Yingluck is the legitimate leader of the country and Suthep is a
man with warrants for his arrest who heads an illegal movement. The
prime minister should not talk to Suthep," Chalerm said.
"Suthep is only proposing negotiations, even though he dismissed
them before, because protest numbers are dwindling."
The crisis is hurting the economy, with confidence and domestic
demand both down. Data on Friday showed factory output fell 6.41
percent in January from a year earlier.
The crisis broadly pits Bangkok's middle-class and southern
opposition supporters, backed by the royalist establishment, against
the largely rural supporters of Yingluck and Thaksin.
Thaksin was toppled by the army in 2006. The military has tried to
stay above the fray this time but Yingluck is still facing multiple
challenges from the courts, which threw out two governments allied
to Thaksin in 2008.
Yingluck called an election for February 2 to try to end the latest
crisis but it was disrupted by the protesters.
The Election Commission will try to hold polls on Sunday in five
provinces where voting was not completed. Election re-runs planned
for April in other provinces have been suspended pending a court
decision on procedures.
The protesters want to set up a "people's council" of unspecified
worthy people to force through political and electoral changes
before a new general election is held, hoping that will stop parties
loyal to Thaksin from winning.
(Additional reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Simon
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