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Thai PM offers olive branch to Red Shirts

world Updated: May 21, 2010 21:39 IST

AP
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Thailand's prime minister on Friday promised an independent probe into "all events" surrounding the Red Shirt protests, and called for reconciliation to heal deep political divisions that led to widespread violence and 83 deaths in two months.

"Fellow citizens, we all live in the same house. Now, our house has been damaged. We have to help each other," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in a nationally broadcast address on television.

"We can certainly repair damaged infrastructure and buildings, but the important thing is to heal the emotional wounds and restore unity among the Thai people," the Oxford-educated Abhisit said in an emotional speech that contrasted with his typical academic style.

Abhisit said authorities have restored order in Bangkok, where soldiers overran an encampment of Red Shirt protesters on Wednesday after a week of street fighting. The crackdown climaxed two months of violence, which left 83 people dead and more than 1,800 injured.

He acknowledged that "huge challenges" lay ahead in overcoming the divisions, which he said can be achieved through a five-point reconciliation plan that he had announced earlier.

"That plan is based on the principle of participation, democracy and justice," he said. The plan includes economic and media reforms and aims to reduce social an economic divisions in Thai society, which the protesters had been railing against.

But he made no mention of new elections, a key demand of the Red Shirts.

Earlier today, Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij said Abhisit's earlier offer to hold elections on Nov 14 was on hold until political passions have subsided and the security situation has stabilised nationwide.

"We need to make sure that emotions have cooled to the extent that candidates from all parties can feel safe in campaigning anywhere in the country. Frankly we would not feel safe doing that today," he told participants at a conference in Tokyo.

Abhisit said the government will allow due process of law and parliamentary democracy to resolve the country's problems with the participation of all Thais.

"At the same time that plan will include an independent investigation of all the events that have taken place during the protests," he said without elaborating.

The Red Shirts streamed into Bangkok in mid-March and set up an encampment in the historic part of the city. An army crackdown to remove them on April 10 left 25 people dead.