Senin, 12 April 2010

Abhisit Vejjajiva comes under renewed pressure to quit

Thailands Prime Minister came under intense pressure to quit today, as political and army leaders wavered in their support and post-mortem examinations of the bodies of dead anti-government protesters confirmed that they were killed by military weapons.

In the grimmest day of a turbulent year and half in power, Abhisit Vejjajiva was also threatened with the dissolution of his party and a five-year ban from politics.

However, he gave no indication that he was ready to step down now, suggesting that the political confrontation that has paralysed parts of Bangkok for a month will continue.

Anti-government Red Shirt protesters paraded through Bangkok today with the bodies of two of their 16 comrades who were killed on Saturday when soldiers attempted to disperse them from one of their vast encampments.

Meanwhile, post-mortem examinations appeared to contradict the Governments claim that they were not killed by soldiers.

Autopsies carried out at the Police General Hospital in Bangkok showed that nine of those examined were shot by high velocity weapons in the head, chest or stomach " confirming the impression given by video footage, which shows one unarmed protester dropping to the ground after being struck by a bullet which removed the top of his head.

A Japanese cameraman, Hiro Muramoto of Reuters, also died after being shot in the chest.

In a televised address, Mr Abhisit accused œterrorists of inciting the violence and denied that there were divisions over how to restore law and order.

œThe Government is unified and determined to solve this problem, he said.

However, the indications are that the Prime Minister has been gravely, and perhaps terminally, damaged by the botched operation, which has humiliated his army and redoubled the determination of his political enemies.

œIt should never have happened like this, Sunai Phasuk, of Human Rights Watch, said. œSending in soldiers rather than police is a problem to start with. But sending them in with live ammunition is always going to make it worse.

The command post of the advancing soldiers was hit by a volley of M-79 rocket-launched grenades, killing one colonel and seriously injuring two others and one general.

The Red Shirts insist that this, too, was the work of shadowy dark forces, rather than their members.

Queen Sirikit and Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn attended funeral ceremonies for the dead colonel tonight, suggesting that the monarchy is behind the Army.

But Thailands most senior general hinted at the resentment felt by some of the armed forces.

General Anupong Paochinda, the commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army, said that the solution to the stand off had to be political, not military, and expressed support for the principal demand of the Red Shirt protesters " the dissolution of Parliament and an early election.

œIf the issue cannot be resolved through political means, then Parliament dissolution seems to be a reasonable step, he said. œIf people want a government of national unity, then by all means, go ahead. I just want peace to prevail.

The Bangkok Post reported that members of Mr Abhisits own ruling coalition, apparently in the absence of the Prime Minister, met on Sunday to discuss the possibility of agreeing to elections in six months time in the hope that this will take the heat out of the demonstrations.

But the matter may be forced before then by todays ruling by Thailands Election Commission.

It orders the dissolution of Mr Abhisits Democrat Party, and the automatic disqualification of its leaders form politics for five years because of an undeclared 258 million baht (£5.2 million) donation received from a cement company.

The decision must be confirmed in court, which may take several months. But if it is upheld it will bring an abrupt end to Mr Abhisits political career.

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