Thailand's largest opposition party yesterday rejected an offer by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to discuss ways of ending a crisis over opposition plans to boycott snap elections, including a possible delay in the vote.
Anti-Thaksin activists, meanwhile, issued an ultimatum demanding that the embattled prime minister step down or face a mass protest on Sunday. The protesters want Thaksin to resign for alleged corruption and abuse of power.
In an effort to head off mounting calls for his resignation, Thaksin dissolved Parliament on Friday, forcing elections three years early. His party is widely expected to win any vote because of its massive financial resources, tight control over government and solid support in the countryside.
Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon, said yesterday he was willing to meet with the opposition Democrat Party leader at any time "to help resolve the political deadlock."
He also offered to postpone the elections by three weeks to give the opposition more time to campaign.
"I am calling on all parties concerned to compromise by taking one step back and coming to talk to help resolve the political crisis," Thaksin told reporters. "I am willing to do anything under the rule of law for the sake of the public."
But Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva declined Thaksin's invitation.
"I don't know what we would talk about," Abhisit told reporters. "I don't think it's necessary."
Opposition parties on Monday announced a boycott of the elections because Thaksin refused to consider their proposals for political reform. The proposals were not publicly announced, but reportedly called for the prime minister to step down from office until the elections are held.
"There is no way out of the crisis unless the prime minister accepts that the key part of the problem is his own legitimacy," Abhisit said.
At the end of a rally on Monday evening, activists issued an ultimatum saying that "the power of the people" would drive Thaksin from office unless he voluntarily stepped down.
"We give Thaksin until March 5 to resign or face the biggest show of opposition ever, and when that time comes, you and your family will have no space to live on Thai soil," said publisher Sondhi Limthongkul, a protest leader, who called on people from all over the country to join a massive anti-Thaksin rally on Sunday.
The demonstrators marched peacefully just after midnight to Democracy Monument, a traditional venue for political rallies, and vowed to keep up their pressure until Thaksin resigns. They dispersed after more than an hour as 200 riot police stood by.