- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 16, 2010

BANGKOK | Thailand’s prime minister, backed by a formidable military force, rejected an ultimatum to dissolve Parliament Monday as tens of thousands of red-shirted protesters vowed to splatter the seat of government with their own blood if their demands weren’t met.

Organizers of the demonstrations in the Thai capital said they’re requesting that thousands of protesters donate a small amount of blood to meet their stated goal of 1 million cubic centimeters, or more than 260 gallons.

“The blood will be taken from the body and democratic soul of the Red Shirts,” said a protest leader, Natthawut Saikua, referring to the popular name for the protesters. He said they would start recruiting medical staff for the blood drive Tuesday morning.

They threatened to pour the blood on Government House if their renewed demand was rejected by 6 p.m. Tuesday.

A Red Cross official expressed concern over the hygiene of drawing blood from so many people and noted that such a large quantity “could save a lot of lives,” if it weren’t destined to be spilled.

In the first reported violence of the protests, two soldiers were wounded when four grenades exploded inside the compound of the 1st Infantry Regiment, known as the King’s Own Bodyguard, army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said.

He did not blame the demonstrators, who were not in the area, but said there has been intelligence that some elements had been planning such attacks. The grenades were fired from an M-79 launcher, he said.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, the key target of the massive demonstration, earlier said he could not give in to the protesters’ demand to dissolve Parliament by midday but left room for compromise.

The demonstrators marshaled around the heavily defended 11th Infantry Regiment headquarters, where Mr. Abhisit has been hunkered down in recent days, but after the deadline passed they began a march back to their main encampment.

“Asking for the dissolution of Parliament before noon in exchange for a halt to the demonstrations, we all agreed it can’t be done. However, it doesn’t mean the government coalition parties and I won’t listen to their ideas,” Mr. Abhisit said on nationwide television.

The protesters, formally grouped as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, believe Mr. Abhisit took office illegitimately with the connivance of the military and other parts of the traditional ruling class who were alarmed by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s popularity, particularly among the poor. Mr. Thaksin, who became prime minister in 2001 and whose party easily won two elections, was ousted by a 2006 military coup for purported corruption and abuse of power.

Some 100,000 Red Shirt protesters had been camped out along a boulevard in the old part of Bangkok, though their numbers had visibly fallen Monday. A force of more than 50,000 soldiers, police and other security personnel has been mobilized in the capital area.

For a second straight day, Mr. Thaksin spoke to the demonstrators by video, urging them to continue their struggle in a nonviolent fashion.

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