The Thai government rejected proposed peace talks yesterday to end a nine-week crisis that has killed 67 people and threatened to tear the country apart, calling on thousands of anti-government protesters to disperse.


As the prospects for official talks unraveled, fighting erupted again in the Din Daeng district north of a Bangkok shopping area occupied by about 5,000 protesters whose leaders say they are willing to fight to the death to topple Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.


“I’d rather stay here, be proud and die fighting than die in my village when I’m old,” said Chamlat Ladlao, a protester from central Lopburi province speaking in the barricaded protest site.


They said they were willing to enter cease-fire talks brokered by senators after five days of chaotic street fighting that has killed 39 people, nearly all civilians, and wounded nearly 300.


But the government said it would only join the talks if the protests end, a condition the red-shirted demonstrators have consistently rejected, leaving talks once again at a dead end with thousands of troops tightening a cordon around them.