BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva met the head of the armed forces on Monday to discuss ways to avert a potential showdown between political groups next month that threatens more violence and further economic damage in a six-month crisis.
Former prime minister Abhisit, who met Armed Forces Supreme Commander General Thanasak Patimaprakorn, has asked for two weeks to try to resolve the crisis peacefully. "He (Thanasak) supports what I want, which is to bring all sides together to find a way out for the country," Mr Abhisit told reporters after the two-hour meeting. "The commander underscored that political problems must be solved through political means."
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has faced months of anti-government protests aimed at removing her to make way for an unelected "people's council" that would oversee reforms to tackle alleged graft and rid the country of the influence of her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
The protesters accuse former telecoms tycoon Thaksin of corruption and nepotism, which he denies. Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup and lives in self-imposed exile to avoid a jail sentence handed down in 2008.
The military, which has intervened frequently in politics in the past, has stayed out of the fray this time, although its leaders have said they will intervene if violence worsens.
Twenty-five people have been killed in politically related violence since the unrest began in November, most of them in shootings and grenade blasts.
The turmoil has dented business confidence, especially as Ms Yingluck has headed a caretaker government with limited powers since dissolving Parliament in December.
Data on Monday showed that industrial output in March was 10.4 per cent lower than in March last year.
The central bank has warned that the economy could contract in the first quarter compared with the final three months of 2013. It has cut its 2014 growth forecast several times and said last week it would probably fall short of its most recent forecast of 2.7 per cent.