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Thai 'Red Shirts' Hold Firm in Bangkok

Thai 'Red Shirt' anti-government protesters pray during a ceremony to mark the 60th Coronation Day for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, inside their fortified camp in the financial central district of Silom in downtown Bangkok, 05 May 2010

Thailand's anti-government protesters are showing no signs of ending their eight-week old demonstrations in the heart of Bangkok's main commercial district, despite agreeing to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's reconciliation process.

The Red Shirts held a ceremony at their barricaded outpost Wednesday in observance of Coronation Day, which marks the 60th anniversary of the coronation of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The ailing 82-year-old monarch has been hospitalized since September, but is expected to attend Wednesday's ceremonies at the Grand Palace.

Red Shirt leaders announced Tuesday they had agreed in principle with Mr. Abhisit's plan to end the political stalemate. But they want the prime minister to set a firm date to dissolve parliament before electoral officials can determine when the election can be held.

Mr. Abhisit has offered to call an early parliamentary election on November 14 if the Red Shirts accept his plan. But he says he still wants to be in power in September to craft a national budget. Both sides also want to be in power in September when a key reshuffle of top military posts is scheduled.

The prime minister unveiled his reconciliation plan Monday. It calls for respecting the monarchy, solving problems of economic injustice, an independent body to ensure a free media, a debate on constitutional reform, and an independent investigation of recent political violence.

Fighting between the protesters and security forces has killed at least 27 people since the street protests began.

The protesters want an early election to replace a government they see as elitist and undemocratic. Many of them are rural poor and working class activists who support former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a 2006 coup for alleged corruption.

Red Shirt sources told VOA Mr. Thaksin supports the government's reconciliation plan. He has been living in exile to avoid a prison sentence on corruption charges.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.