Thai government rules out negotiations with ex-premier (Lead)

April 10th, 2009 - 5:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Pattaya (Thailand), April 10 (DPA) There will be no reconciliation talks with fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra after a sharp escalation of anti-government protests in Bangkok and the nearby resort city of Pattaya aimed at disrupting a regional summit, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said Friday.
A group of pro-Thaksin demonstrators, known as Red Shirts, broke through police and military barricades Friday to rally at the site of the meeting of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) with its dialogue partners, which include India, China and Japan.

Police, backed by soldiers, initially rebuffed the protesters but then gave way, allowing a phalanx of protesters access to the conference site at Pattaya, 100 km south-east of Bangkok.

Earlier, Suthep told reporters that protesters would not be allowed to pass. “This meeting will not be disturbed,” he said. “It is wrong of them to try. This is bad for Thailand. These people are only thinking of themselves and their corrupt leader.”

Red Shirts smashed the window of one French journalist’s car on the road from Bangkok to Pattaya, and at least two other groups of journalists were roughed up by protesters on their way to the summit.

One army officer complained to DPA that the police appeared supine in the face of determined but not overwhelming numbers of protesters. “Do they really care to stop Thaksin’s people?” he asked. “I’m not sure.”

Tens of thousands of supporters of Thaksin, a telecommunications tycoon-turned-populist politician, occupied the busy Victory Monument area in the centre of Bangkok Thursday, closing down all traffic at the important junction and causing traffic chaos in the Thai capital.

Prime Minister Abhist Vejjajiva declared Friday a national holiday to give the authorities room to deal with the protest.

Suthep told reporters it was “groundless” to think the government could negotiate with a rival who has gone beyond acceptable behaviour and appeared determined to destroy normal society.

Thaksin, in a video broadcast from an undisclosed location to protesters Thursday evening, called for “every patriot” to come forward to force the resignations of Abhisit and three advisers to the Thai king, whom Thaksin said were behind the 2006 military coup that toppled him.

Thaksin was convicted and sentenced to two years in jail for corruption in a land deal during his 2001-06 premiership. He jumped bail and has been living in exile in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

A Red Shirt leader, Veera Musikapong, said every action taken by the protesters was legitimate because they were acting for the good of the people against an illegitimate government.

Abhisit has repeatedly rebuffed calls for his resignation in television appearances, calling on protesters to understand that the calls for “democracy” were a blind to further the corrupt interests of an irresponsible former leader.

ASEAN leaders are meeting in Pattaya this weekend along with their dialogue partners China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand with regional financial initiates high on the agenda.

ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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