Thai PM under fire over protests

Criticism comes as foreign minister blames Thaksin for attack on Yellow Shirts leader.

    The government has extended the state of emergency in Bangkok [AFP]

    Questions were also raised about whether soldiers who dispersed protesters killed some and hid their bodies.

    Rioting last week by anti-government protesters led to the cancellation of a regional Asian summit after the protesters stormed the venue.

    Abhisit's official car was violently attacked and at least two people were reported killed, apparently in clashes with pro-government supporters. More than 130 people were injured.

    State of emergency

    The parliamentarians said Abhisit had inflamed the situation by imposing the state of emergency. The emergency, now in its 11th day, bans gatherings of more than five people.

    It also forbids news reports that threaten public order and allows the government to call up the military to quell unrest - as it did last week.

    "This emergency decree should be used as briefly as possible," Abhisit told parliamentarians. He said he hoped to lift the decree "within days".

    In depth

     Profile: The PAD
     Video: Tensions still high
     Interview: Thaksin speaks
     Video: Thaksin discusses Thailand's troubles
     Background: Who's who
     Economy: Vital tourist trade threatened
     Focus: Scarred by 'Mad Monday'
     Timeline: Thai crisis
     Pictures: Red Shirts retreat
     Profile: Thaksin Shinawatra

    The protests revolve around Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister who was removed from power in a coup in September 2006.

    The protesters, also called the Red Shirts, benefited from Thaksin's social-welfare programmes and they claim Abhisit, who was appointed by parliament in December, came to power illegitimately.

    His election followed court rulings that removed two Thaksin-allied governments.

    Abhisit said his government would "give all sides an opportunity to propose solutions'' to the political crisis.

    He also said that legislators could propose amendments to the constitution or law enforcement in the country that could help end the political impasse.

    Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas, reporting from Bangkok, said Abhisit was attempting to reconcile all sides of Thai society, and had asked for a constructive exercise, free from criticism and sarcasm.

    The marathon parliamentary session comes as the country's foreign minister accused Thaksin of being behind last week's attack on Sondhi Limthongkul, who has been at the forefront of a movement against Thaksin.

    In a speech to the Asia Society in New York on Tuesday, Kasit Piromya accused Thaksin of playing a role in Friday's shooting which left Sondhi injured.

    Car targeted

    Sondhi founded the Yellow Shirts movement that helped topple Thaksin in 2006 as well as successive pro-Thaksin governments that led to the installation of the current government.

    Unidentified assailants riddled Sondhi's car with bullets in Bangkok on Friday, but doctors said he was out of danger after a successful operation to remove a bullet fragment from his skull.

    Kasit said Sondhi "was supposed to have lunch with me at noon, but he was shot before.

    "It's been survival for a few of us ... Thaksin failed on the populist movement and now I think he has resorted to some sort of assassination attempt."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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