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Thai minister calls for debate on monarchy's role

world Updated: Apr 13, 2010 12:27 IST
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Thailand's Foreign Minister has issued a rare call for a debate on the role of the revered monarchy in the political process, following the country's worst civil violence in almost two decades.

Kasit Piromya said in Washington that any resolution to the political crisis gripping Thailand might see the role of the royals revamped, with greater involvement in the political arena given to the rural poor.

"It is a process that we have to go through and I think we should be brave enough to go through all of this and to talk about even the taboo subject of the institution of the monarchy," he said at a seminar on Monday.

"I think we have to talk about the institution of the monarchy, how it would have to reform itself to the modern globalised world," Kasit said, citing the examples of Britain and the Netherlands as countries where the role of the royal family has been adapted.

"Everything is now becoming in the open," he added. "Let's have a discussion. What type of democratic society would we like to be?"

The monarchy's role remains one of the most sensitive subjects in the kingdom, where violent clashes Saturday between the army and anti-government "Red Shirts" left 21 people dead.

Insulting the royal family is a serious crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 82, has no official political role but is seen as a unifying figure in a country that is frequently riven by political unrest.

During a 1992 uprising he chastised both the military and protest leaders, effectively bringing an end to the violence, and a Red Shirt leader has called on the king to intervene in the latest crisis to prevent further bloodshed.

King Bhumibol, who is the world's longest-reigning monarch and revered as a demi-god by many Thais, has been hospitalised since September and has not commented publicly on the latest turmoil.