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Thai PM defends deadly crackdown
Abhisit blames militia for sparking clashes ahead of censure debate in parliament.
Last Modified: 31 May 2010 05:33 GMT
A curfew has been lifted but emergency rule remains in place across more than a third of the country [AFP]

Facing parliamentary censure over his handling of so-called red shirt anti-government protests, Thailand's prime minister has defended the army crackdown that left many dead and injured scores.

"The government and army had no intention to attack people," Abhisit Vejjajiva said ahead of the two-day no confidence debate.

"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 military crackdown on May 19, after weeks-long protests by the red shirts who were demanding Abhisit resign and call elections, left at least 15 people dead, bringing to at least 85 the number of people killed since the first violence flared on April 10.

Around 1,500 people were also injured in several clashes over the weeks-long protest.

DPM in spotlight

Al Jazeera's Aela Callan, reporting from Bangkok on Monday, said besides Abhisit, five other ministers faced censure, with the opposition gunning in particular for the deputy prime minister over his role in the unrest.

The red shirts blame Suthep Thaugsuban for ordering an earlier crackdown – on April 10 - which left 29 people dead and hundreds injured, and had demanded that he be investigated and charged before they leave their downtown encampment.

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  Red shirts go underground
   
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  Crackdown in Thailand

Also likely to be closely scrutinised was what happened at the Pathum Vanaram temple where women and children had taken refuge before and during the final military crackdown, our correspondent said.

Six people were founded killed there in the aftermath of the crackdown.

Abhisit said there was no military action at the time of the temple shootings, but admitted that shots were fired after the military operation ended and has said the events will be investigated by an independent committee.

The main opposition Puea Thai party, aligned to Thaksin Shinawatra, the ousted prime minister whom many of the red shirts support, is expected to demand answers from Abhisit's government on why it sent armed soldiers firing live rounds, instead of riot police, to restore order in the capital, Bangkok.

The opposition and government both want to produce photographs, videos and documents related to the protests and bloodshed during the censure debate.

But amid allegations of doctoring of evidence, the opposition has boycotted a panel set up to review footage of the violence, casting doubt on whether they would be allowed to show their own evidence in parliament.

"If we can't show clips then after the debate we will show them on stages in different provinces that are not under a state of emergency," Prompong Nopparit, a spokesman for the Puea Thai party, said over the weekend.

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

Abhisit banned public gatherings of more than five people and gave broad powers to police and military under the state of emergency invoked on April 7 after red shirts occupied the capital's main commercial district and stormed parliament.

Source:
Agencies
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