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Thailand's Red-Shirted Protesters Change Colors To Avoid Arrest

The protesters, supporters of ousted former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, are occupying a makeshift village in downtown Bangkok.

The protesters, supporters of ousted former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, are occupying a makeshift village in downtown Bangkok.

(RFE/RL) -- Thailand's red-shirted protesters started dressing in different colors today to avoid being arrested, as the government tried new measures to stop the protests from growing.

The red-shirted supporters of ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have occupied Bangkok's main shopping area of Ratchaprasong for three weeks. They are seeking to pressure the government to dissolve the parliament immediately and call snap elections, but Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has rejected their demands.

Korkaew Pikulthong, one of the red-shirt leaders, today said that they are determined to continue the protest, but are changing tactics. "We asked our supporters to change the color of their t-shirts to any other color so they can avoid being arrested so they are able to join our rallies," Korkaew said.

In a prerecorded television appearance on April 24, Prime Minister Abhisit said the protester's peace overture looked "insincere," and rejected their demand to hold elections in a month. He vowed to force out thousands of protesters occupying from their base in the central shopping area.

"I've never rejected [finding] a solution to this political crisis, but we should understand that the way to find a solution should not be based on terrorism or on using violence or any threat," Abhisit said. "The solutions should not be under conditions involving these kinds of threats."

The government plans to use both soft and harsh means to pressure the protesters to leave central Bangkok.

Appearing alongside the prime minister, Thai Army Chief Anupong Paochinda said his forces would forcibly disperse the protesters who have set up a self-contained village in a roughly 3 square kilometer area of the city. But he said the militants must be separated from women and children in the area.

"I want to inform you that, on whether to disperse the crowd or not, we will follow the government, where the Department of Special Investigation's jurisdiction holds," Anupong said. "As the prime minister said, it's not about the timeframe. It's about how we can bring peace back to the country again. Then we must do it."

Any attempt to disperse the protesters risks heavy casualties and the prospect of clashes spilling into high-end residential areas, which are slowly emptying as shops close and apartment building owners tighten security.

Bangkok, a sprawling city of 15 million people, is on edge after a series of grenade blasts three days ago killed one person and wounded 88 in a business district. The government blames the attack on the red-shirts, who deny responsibility.

On April 10, a clash between protesters and the army killed 25 people and wounded more than 800 in Thailand's worst political violence in nearly two decades.

With material from agency reports