BANGKOK - Protesters in Thailand pushing for early elections threatened mobile rallies across Bangkok on Wednesday in defiance of a state of emergency, which would increase the risk of clashes with troops or rival protest groups.
The capital was relatively calm overnight and the number of demonstrators at the "red shirt" rally in an upmarket shopping district of the capital was little more than 1,000 at dawn, a Reuters photographer said.
That was much smaller than more recently in the seven-week protest movement, when fears of a military crackdown were intense, but Reuters reporters said the anti-government protesters had fortified barricades around the site overnight.
Cooking gas canisters were added to a huge barricade on the edge of the Silom business district to deter troops from firing in that direction and bottles filled with fuel were added to another, Reuters reporters said.
Some barricades were already doused with fuel last week.
Troop movements were reported in central areas of Bangkok late on Tuesday and army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said some were "training" for an eventual dispersal of the protesters.
"We are maintaining checkpoints at several places as well to check for arms and prevent more people from going in to gather," he said.
The red shirts have in turn mobilised to prevent troops moving on main roads into Bangkok and in some northern provinces.
The stock market has been volatile recently despite a good start to the quarterly results season. Foreign investors who had been lured by the cheap valuations in Bangkok despite the unrest were sellers for the fourth session on Tuesday, when the market lost 0.3 percent, in line with Southeast Asian markets.
Hopes for a negotiated end to the crisis, in which 26 people have been killed and hundreds wounded, were dashed at the weekend when Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva rejected a proposal by the protesters for an election in three months.
Abhisit said late on Tuesday the army had no plan to impose martial law.
"From my discussion with the people responsible and the people who have powers, they have no intention of declaring martial law at the moment," he told BBC World News. "We are aiming to restore order as soon as possible."
Protesters forced Bangkok's elevated railway to shut for four hours in the morning rush hour on Tuesday to stop any attempt by troops to use a station near their rally, but there was no repeat on Wednesday and traffic was no more congested than usual.