[JURIST] Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [official profile; JURIST news archive] announced Wednesday that he is prepared to negotiate with protesters once they cease their illegal conduct. Government spokesperson Panitan Wattanyagorn stated that the prime minister is willing to speak with protesters [BBC report] regarding an election and amending the constitution once protesters abide by the law. Anti-government protesters, known as red shirts [BBC backgrounder], have been associated with a series on unlawful acts [AP report], including blocking a train carrying military vehicles and fortifying their base area with tire barriers and homemade weapons. Their camp, which occupies Bangkok's business district, has forced businesses to close and suffer financial losses. Unidentified attackers have also caused fire damage after launching rocket-propelled grenades at a fuel depot near an airport. The red shirts claim [BBC report] that Abhisit came to power illegitimately and that he should resign and call for elections.
The protests are currently in their sixth week and have led to an increasingly hostile political climate in Thailand. On Tuesday, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called for an investigation [JURIST report] into the deaths of 25 people during recent anti-government protests. Earlier this month, a Thai court issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for at least 17 high-profile protesters, including top red shirt officials. Abhisit hopes that the arrest warrants will encourage the protesters to disperse. Abhisit was forced to declare a state of emergency earlier this month after a Thai court refused to issue an injunction [JURIST reports] against the protesters. The protesters are supporters of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who was removed from power [JURIST report] during a 2006 military coup. Thaksin was convicted [JURIST report] in absentia on corruption charges in October 2008. Despite the conviction, the Cambodian government refused to extradite [JURIST report] the ousted prime minister to face a two-year prison sentence.