Thai "Yellow Shirt" nationalists have rallied in protest at Abhisit's handling of a deadly Cambodia border dispute
Thailand's British-born, Oxford-educated Prime Minister - Abhisit Vejjajiva - must call an election by the end of 2011
Thai security laws authorise security personnel to stop people gathering in certain areas
BANGKOK — Thailand will hold a general election in the first half of this year if there is no fresh political violence, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Wednesday.
"My government will not complete its term at the end of 2011 but will organise elections in the first half of this year if it resolves three issues," he told a forum of investors in Bangkok, according to a statement released by his office. The event was closed to the media.
He said two of these -- a strong economy and constitutional amendment -- appeared to have been fulfilled, so the last remaining condition was that any election must be held in peaceful conditions.
The British-born, Oxford-educated head of the establishment Democrat Party must call an election by the end of this year, when his term finishes.
He has previously said the vote could take place early in 2011 if the security situation improves.
"When everything is ready I will call an election as soon as possible. It is not necessary to complete my term," Abhisit told the forum.
Mass protests in April and May of last year by the "Red Shirt" movement, which is broadly loyal to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, left 90 people dead in street clashes between demonstrators and the army.
At the height of the crisis, Abhisit proposed to hold a poll in November 2010 to resolve the standoff, but he shelved the plan because demonstrators refused to disperse until the army moved in.
In the months after the military broke up the rally, the capital was rattled by a string of minor explosions while it was under emergency rule.
The Reds, who where campaigning for immediate elections, have held a series of peaceful one-day rallies in the capital in recent weeks.
Rival "Yellow Shirt" nationalist activists meanwhile have been rallying near Government House in protest at Abhisit's handling of a deadly border dispute with Cambodia, and have vowed to step up their campaign.
The cabinet on Tuesday agreed to invoke the Internal Security Act in Bangkok to cope with renewed political rallies in the capital.
The laws -- less strict than emergency rule, which was imposed for more than eight months last year -- will authorise security personnel to stop people gathering in certain areas, officials said.