Thai PM under fire over deadly crackdown

Thailand`s PM faced accusations on Monday of violating human rights.

Bangkok: Thailand`s Prime Minister faced accusations on Monday of violating human rights by ordering a deadly Army crackdown on opposition protesters, during a heated no-confidence debate in Parliament.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva survived more than two months of street protests by the anti-government "Red Shirts" but is now facing questions about his administration`s handling of the unrest, which left 88 people dead.

Opposition whip Wittaya Buranasiri said Abhisit had "violated human rights, ordering the military to crack down on protesters who were rallying within the Constitution."

He added: "The crackdown was not based on international standards, which led to many deaths and injuries. The government has also failed to solve economic problems. The nation will enter a crisis that will be difficult to resolve if this government is allowed to carry on."

The Red Shirts` street rally, broken up on May 19 in an Army assault on their vast encampment in the retail heart of Bangkok, sparked outbreaks of violence that left 88 people dead, mostly civilians, and nearly 1,900 injured.

Abhisit -- who has surprised many by remaining in power during the crippling street protests -- is expected to survive the no-confidence motion thanks to his ruling coalition`s majority in the lower house.

Ahead of the two-day censure debate, Abhisit defended the deadly military crackdown on the Red Shirts` protests.

"The government and Army had no intention to attack people," he told reporters.

"What had happened was there was a militia group which attacked the military and that led to clashes. We will explain this fact and we show our sincerity by allowing an independent committee to investigate" the events, he added.

Lawyers for Thaksin Shinawatra, the fugitive former prime minister accused by the government of bankrolling the protests and inciting unrest, said they had hired an international war crimes expert to help investigate the crackdown.

Dutch professor GJ Alexander Knoops, previously involved in cases on the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, will help attempt to bring the Thai government to court on alleged human rights violations, a statement said.

Thaksin`s legal team accused the government of "flagrantly breaching its obligations as a member of the international community and the United Nations Human Rights Council".

A Thai court last week approved an arrest warrant on terrorism charges for the former telecoms tycoon, who was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 2006 and lives in self-imposed exile to avoid a jail term for corruption.

Thaksin says the charges against him are "politically motivated".

During the censure debate, the main opposition Puea Thai party is expected to demand answers from Abhisit`s administration on why it sent armed soldiers -- instead of riot police -- to restore order in the protest-hit capital.

The Red Shirts were campaigning for elections they hoped would oust the government, which they view as undemocratic because it came to power with the backing of the army after a court ruling threw out the previous administration.

Abhisit, who does not have to go to the polls until the end of next year, had proposed November elections in a bid to end the rally, but shelved the plan because demonstrators refused to disperse.

He said on Saturday it was "difficult" to have elections before the end of the year because protesters had not fully joined his reconciliation plan.

Protest leaders surrendered after the Army stormed their rally base but enraged demonstrators set fire to dozens of major buildings in the capital.

The government on Saturday lifted a night-time curfew imposed 10 days earlier, saying the situation was returning to normal, but it left in place emergency rule across more than one third of the country, including Bangkok.

Bureau Report

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