THAI ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTERS FORTIFY CITY BARRICADES
The “red-shirt” protest camp remains sprawled through Bangkok's shopping district, where several five-star hotels are now refusing guest bookings.
Troops remain behind lines nearby in an increasingly militarised standoff.
The red-shirts are demanding that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva step down and parliament is dissolved.
Hundreds of troops are facing tens of thousands of anti-government protesters in clearly defended zones across major junctions in the centre of the city. If the authorities want to crack down, they don't have to wait for seven days, they can come right now
Nattawut Saikuar, protest leader
“Before we go into the big battle we have to strengthen our own camp because the military will soon attack us,” said one of the protest leaders, Nattawut Saikuar.
He said the protesters expected the army to make its move some time in the next week.
“Red Shirt people will stay here until we win, so if the authorities want to crack down, they don't have to wait for seven days, they can come right now,” he added.
Hotels including the Four Seasons, the Intercontinental and the Hyatt Erawan have been surrounded by the red-shirt protest tent city.
Outside the five-star hotels, red-shirted Thais have set up mass food production stations, public bathrooms, massage areas and sleeping zones.
Inside the hotels, the numbers of guests have been dwindling.
Several of them have now said they are taking no new bookings until at least next Monday, and most hotel restaurants have been closed.
Major shopping centres have been closed for days.
The Thai army has made explicit its determination to act “decisively” against the protesters, including using live ammunition in certain circumstances.
Mr Abhisit addressed the nation on Monday night saying both that the protests could not be allowed to continue and that he was trying his best to end them but it was a difficult job.
Formally called the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD)
Mostly poorer workers from rural areas
Many are loyal to ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra
Believe Mr Abhisit came to power illegally and want him to resign and call elections
Known as the Peoples' Alliance for Democracy
Loose coalition of mostly urban middle-class royalists and businessmen
United by their hatred of Mr Thaksin who was ousted in 2006
Occupied airports and official buildings in 2008, precipitating a political crisis
“Both the government and the people want this to end quickly but we have to think about many factors,” he said.
“We have to minimise the damage and do this effectively.
“We cannot set a timeframe. The government knows that the people are suffering but authorities have many elements to consider. We will do our best.”
The protests by the red-shirts, now in their sixth week, are aiming to force Mr Abhisit to step down and call an election.
On Friday, Mr Abhisit put the army commander-in-chief, Anupong Paojinda, in charge of national security
Despite calls from some hard-line parts of the establishment, Gen Anupong has advocated a political solution and said his troops were not planning further crackdowns.
The army plays a prominent role in Thai politics – former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted by the military in 2006.