Lawyer for ousted Thai leader calls for elections

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 - 17:58

Tokyo: Thailand`s government must hold
elections soon to prove it has a public mandate after protests
that left 90 dead in the nation`s capital, a lawyer for
Thailand`s fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
said on Wednesday.

Robert Amsterdam, who represents Thaksin, said the
government`s handling of the "Red Shirt" protests demonstrated
it does not have the support of the people and fears the
return of Thaksin, whom it has called a terrorist for
allegedly fomenting the unrest.
Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup.

New elections are a top demand of the Red Shirt movement,
which is made up of urban and rural poor, democracy activists
and politicians loyal to Thaksin. Now in self-exile in Europe,
Thaksin faces charges of corruption and abuse of power but
commands a strong following because of his populist policies.

The Thai government has also issued a warrant for
Thaksin`s arrest on terrorism charges, a move Amsterdam said
was a tactical mistake.

"I think they made a serious mistake in calling him a
terrorist," Amsterdam said. "I think they have reduced their
chances of any country extraditing him" because of the
possibility of a death penalty that the charges carry.

"These people are scared of Thaksin," he said. "They are
scared of someone elected by the people."

The protests, which were crushed in May, started
peacefully in mid-March but turned violent as the government
tried to end them. At least 90 people were killed and arson
damaged more than 30 buildings.

Amsterdam, who is based in London, was in Japan to urge
the government to support an investigation into the causes of
the violence, in which a Japanese journalist was killed.
Thai officials have said the government does not want to
rush into elections before dealing with the deep social
divisions that sparked the clashes.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva`s term ends in November
next year, and they have said it was unlikely that elections
would be held this year.

Amsterdam called that "outrageous" and demanded elections
be held soon.

"The real legitimate leader of the Thai people happens to
be Dr Thaksin," he said.

Opponents see Abhisit as illegitimate because his
Democratic party did not win the last general elections in
2007. His government was elected by parliamentary vote last
year after two previous administrations loyal to Thaksin were
invalidated by court rulings.

Although the protests were stopped, the pro-Thaksin
Red Shirt movement remains strong.


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First Published: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 - 17:58

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