WRAPUP 5-If we have to clash, we will, says Thai army

* Yellow shirts give government a week to end crisis

* “Multi-colour” shirts rally for peace
(Adds “multi-colour” shirts, paragraphs 12-14)

By Ploy Ten Kate and Nopporn Wong-Anan

BANGKOK, April 18 (BestGrowthStock) – Thailand’s military vowed on
Sunday to “punish” anti-government protesters if they march on
Bangkok’s central business district, raising fears of further
violence after bloody clashes killed 24 people a week ago.

Red-shirted supporters of ousted premier Thaksin
Shinawatra
said on Saturday they may take their protest to the financial
district, two blocks away from their main downtown protest
base, on Tuesday, in defiance of an emergency decree.

“We won’t let them go anywhere further,” army spokesman
Sansern Kaewkamnerd said.

Sansern stopped short of using the word “crackdown” but
said protesters occupying the plush shopping and hotel district
for a 16th day would be dealt with.

“Let’s say that we are left with no choice but to enforce
the law,” Sansern told TNN television. “Those who do wrong will
get their punishment. Taking back the area along with other
measures are all included in enforcing the law. All this must
be done.”

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Sansern said uniformed and armed security forces would be
sent to secure high-rises around the demonstration area to
prevent the “third hand”, whom the government has blamed for
the killings, from launching attacks. The red shirts said they
would counter with their own people.

“Whatever will be will be. If we have to clash, we will …
We need to enforce the law decisively. We can’t just think that
‘we don’t want casualties’, otherwise the country can’t move
forward,” Sansern said. “Casualties would only happen after
security forces have tried their best to avoid them, while
those people are trying to take away our weapons and lives.”

Adding to concerns about further unrest, leaders of the
anti-Thaksin “yellow shirt” movement — representing royalists,
the business elite, aristocrats and urban middle class — gave
the government a week to end the crisis, after which they would
also hold a mass rally.

The yellow-shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD)
staged a crippling eight-day blockade of Bangkok’s airports in
December 2008, which left more than 230,000 tourists stranded,
disrupted trade and led to credit ratings downgrades for
Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.

“We give the government seven days to return peace to the
country or we, every member of the PAD, will perform our duty
under the constitution” to protect the throne, PAD leader
Chamlong Srimuang told a news conference.

“Prepare yourselves for the biggest rally when we will eat
and sleep on the street again.”

Adding to the mix, about 3,000 “multi-colour” protesters,
seeking a return to normalcy, gathered at a war memorial.

“We are the peace-loving people who have been severely
affected by the red-shirts,” said Tul Sittisomwong, a yellow
shirt and the leader of the multi-colour network.

“…We are congregating here peacefully to tell the red
shirts please stop using the violence, please stop hurting the
people on the streets.”

UNEASY CALM

An uneasy calm has prevailed in the capital since
Thailand’s worst violence in almost two decades which triggered
a huge sell-off in the stock market (.SETI: ) after six weeks of
gains.

A heated confrontation between troops and demonstrators,
who are demanding that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva
dissolve parliament and step down, led to bloody clashes on
April 10, the first outbreak of violence in the six-week
protests.

The 2008 yellow-shirt siege ended when a pro-Thaksin ruling
party was dissolved for electoral fraud, paving the way for
Abhisit’s rise to power after a parliamentary vote the red
shirts say was influenced heavily by the military in a “silent
coup”.

Abhisit rebuffs claims his government is illegitimate and
has refused to step down. He failed to deliver his regular
televised address on Sunday for a second week and has been
uncharacteristically reclusive since last week’s clashes.

Several thousand red shirts rallied on Sunday at the
Rachaprasong intersection, dubbed their “final battleground”,
listening to speeches. More arrived as night fell.

The seemingly intractable five-year crisis has fuelled
speculation that, with the government and security forces in
disarray and concerns about clashes between rival
demonstrators, hardliners within the military may decide to
stage a coup to end the impasse, which analysts say would
likely backfire.

Investing Analysis
(Additional reporting by Eric Gaillard and Martin Petty;
Editing by Nick Macfie)

WRAPUP 5-If we have to clash, we will, says Thai army