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WRAPUP 4-Thai protesters refuse to leave, push new demands

By Vithoon Amorn BANGKOK, May 10 (Reuters) - Thai anti-government demonstrators refused on Monday to end a two-month street protest until the government accepted responsibility for a clash with troops in April that killed 25 people and wounded more than 800. Nattawut Saikua, a co-leader of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), known as the "red shirts", said Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban must turn himself in to authorities before they would end their protest. "Once Suthep turns himself in to the police, the UDD will disperse and return home," Nattawut told supporters. Suthep has denied he should be held responsible for any deaths in the clash, but a government spokesman said he would appear before the Department of Special Investigation on Tuesday to hear complaints filed against him by the protesters. The leaders of the mostly rural and working-class protesters accepted a timeframe for a general election proposed by the government to be held on Nov.

14, including plans to dissolve parliament in the second half of September. But that was their only concession. They listed several demands and conditions for ending their five-week occupation of Bangkok's main shopping district, including Suthep's arrest and the lifting of a ban on their television channel. After weekend gun and grenade attacks that killed two police officers and wounded 13 others, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had said he wanted a "clear answer" to his reconciliation offer on Monday. The authorities are faced with the dilemma of how to dislodge thousands of protesters, including women and children, from a fortified encampment sprawling across 3 sq km (1.2 sq mile) of an upmarket central Bangkok shopping district. COST TO ECONOMY Thai stocks rose more than 1 percent on Monday, less than some other Asian bourses, which jumped on optimism over a European Union plan to help indebted euro zone countries. "A rejection of the plan will be a setback to the peace efforts over the ongoing political impasse and could see reduced foreign inflows into the stock market," said Sukit Udomsirikul, a senior analyst at Siam City Securities. Central bank assistant governor Suchada Kirakul told Reuters Thailand saw $800 million foreign capital outflows last week, but added that the political instability had had little direct impact on the baht currency. The red shirts, who are largely supportive of ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, have been demonstrating since mid-March, at first demanding immediate elections, and have been in the shopping area since April 3, forcing malls and hotels to close at huge cost to the local economy. The protests are the latest instalment of a political crisis that stretches back to 2005 and has exposed a deep fault line in Thai society, pitting the poor and rural masses against the metropolitan middle classes and traditional, royalist elite. Abhisit does not have to call an election until the end of 2011 but has offered polls on Nov. 14 as a way to end the latest crisis which has left 29 people dead and more than 1,000 wounded. In a weekly televised address on Sunday, he restated his commitment to the plan but said an election would not go ahead if there was disagreement and violence continued. His proposals call for reforms to address social injustice, a big red shirt grievance; an independent body to ensure unbiased reporting by the media; a committee to investigate violence; and political reform, possibly including constitutional amendments. The red shirts say the ruling coalition has no mandate, having come to power in a parliamentary vote 17 months ago that they claim was orchestrated by the army top brass. (Additional reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak, Ploy Ten Kate and Chalathip Thirasoonthrakul; Writing by Jason Szep; Editing by Alex Richardson) ((Bangkok Newsroom; +66 2 637 5610)) Keywords: THAILAND/ (If you have a query or comment on this story, e-mail to news.feedback.asia@thomsonreuters.com) COPYRIGHT Copyright Thomson Reuters 2010. All rights reserved.

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