Wed, Apr 14, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Thaksin blamed for crisis

CONFLICTThe Thai foreign minister called on the US to pressure the former prime minister’s supporters to turn away from violence and enter into negotiations

AP AND AFP , WASHINGTON AND BEIJING

Thailand’s foreign minister on Monday lashed out at former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, accusing him of personally instigating the country’s deadliest political clashes in nearly two decades.

In heated comments on the sidelines of a global nuclear summit, Kasit Piromya compared Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, to 20th-century dictators Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin and to the terror group al-Qaeda.

“He’s a bloody terrorist,” Kasit told a small group of academics and reporters.

Kasit urged the US to pressure Thaksin’s supporters to turn away from violence and enter into negotiations with the government. He said that if anti-Thaksin protesters respond to the street violence, Thailand could see a military coup. The army has not hesitated to stage coups during previous political strife.

More than 20 people died on Saturday in clashes that are part of a larger power struggle between rural supporters of Thaksin and members of the country’s traditional ruling elite. Protesters in recent years have taken to the streets each time their rivals have come to power. The exiled Thaksin was sentenced to two years in jail in 2008 for breaking a conflict-of-interest law.

The pro-Thaksin forces want Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who canceled his trip to Washington because of the chaos, to dissolve parliament immediately and call new elections. They feel their votes were ignored after Thaksin was ousted from power in 2006.

Despite his anger, Kasit said that while the government would not allow the protests to force it to dissolve, it was ready to enter into negotiations.

Earlier, Kasit said the clashes were part of the traumatic and messy democratic process of giving a voice to farmers and workers after years of rule by the elite.

Thailand has seen three governments in the four years since the 2006 coup, and Kasit acknowledged that his country has “not found the right formula. We have not found the compromise.”

“Thailand cannot go on behaving like a banana republic ... and become a problem child,” Kasit said at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “This is an unfinished symphony.”

“As longtime friends of Thailand, [US] President [Barack] Obama and I are deeply saddened by the recent violence and loss of life in Bangkok,” US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement. “We believe firmly that a negotiated solution is possible.”

Kasit said Thaksin must serve his jail term before he could participate in efforts to set up negotiations.

Kasit also sharply criticized some foreign countries such as Nicaragua and Montenegro for helping Thaksin and ignoring his 2008 conviction. He said such help constituted interference in Thailand’s internal affairs.

He also blamed the international community for not looking too deeply at the corruption and violence he said Thaksin was responsible for and instead focusing exclusively on the fact the ousted prime minister was the victim of a coup.

Kasit’s comments came as Thailand’s Election Commission ordered the ruling party be dissolved for allegedly misusing campaign donations. The decision is a potential victory for protesters who paraded slain comrades through Bangkok on Monday to demand the prime minister’s resignation. It must be endorsed by the Constitutional Court to take effect.

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