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NEWS UPDATES 27-28 May 2010

Asean chief sees need for drastic political reform in Thailand

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Thailand badly needed major political reform and social restructuring after recent red shirt protests turned bloody in Bangkok and other major provinces, the Secretary General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) was quoted as telling reporters.

Surin Pitsuwan, former Thai foreign minister and key member of the current ruling party Democrat was making the comment in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, where he was attending the Asean-EU meeting.

Though the situation looks calm after last week's crackdown and most protesters have returned home, the country still faces the task of ensuring permanent peace and stability, local newspaper The Nation quoted him as saying.

Asean had earlier expressed concerns about Thailand's political turmoil and urged all parties to exercise restraint and use peaceful methods to resolve the conflict, he said.

Surin said the Thai government had to introduce reforms that will bridge the gap in the social strata and bring justice to one and all. The cause behind the protest was the imbalance between economic and political development, he said.

"It is a lesson for all developing countries, not just Thailand, to learn how to manage social inequality," Said said. "It is not about being democratic or undemocratic, but about the effectiveness of social lmanagement agencies," he told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.

Meanwhile, in Thailand, the Parliament angrily debated the government's handling of protests and violence and the ongoing curfew Wednesday, as thousands of citizens joined Buddhist monks in a mass prayer for peace.

Opposition lawmakers kept Parliament from focusing on next year's budget as they hurled insults and accusations at the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, calling him insincere and questioning his decision to put the capital and other areas under a nighttime curfew.

"The curfew has caused many problems for many people. Many people make their living at night. But now these businesses have to lose their incomes because of this," said Surapong Tovichakchaikul, an opposition member from Chiang Mai, a northern city where support is strong for the Red Shirt protesters who led the demonstrations in Bangkok.

The curfew in the capital and 23 provinces is to remain in effect through Friday.

"Up until now, almost 100 people have died. Can you continue reading the budget and balance sheets like that? Do you have any feelings?" Surapong said.

The opposition has threatened to seek impeachment or censure of Abhisit and his top ministers, and debate over those moves is expected to take place next week.


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