ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thai PM urges “detoxification”
Democrat leader and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (third from left) and other key Democrat Party figures wave to the crowd as they ended their major election campaign at Ratchaprasong intersection about 11pm. PATIPAT JANTHONG
Addressing a crowd of about 30,000 in front of CentralWorld shopping mall at the Ratchaprasong intersection yesterday _ a key scene of last year's bloody showdowns between red shirt protesters and security forces _ Mr Abhisit said the push for national reconciliation would carry on if the Democrats were returned to office.
He urged voters not to worry about the prospect of further unrest caused by the anti-government red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD). "If you are afraid to vote for No. 10 because you are concerned that the red shirts will not stop [stirring up trouble], people in the whole country will continue to be Thaksin's hostages forever," he said.
Mr. Abhisit said his life had changed utterly in the aftermath of the clashes between red shirt protesters and security forces on April 10 last year when 25 people, including five soldiers and 20 civilians died.
"I cried for long on April 10. And I knew that no matter what I decided, people would be infuriated.
"But, thanks to my wife, Pimpen, who helped me through this, I was able to press on," Mr Abhisit said.
He did not understand why Pheu Thai Party kept talking about reconciliation now when they and their "big boss" could have fought for it last year before so many people died.
"What were their hearts made of? Why they did not try to protect their supporters whose lives were at risk [during the April-May demonstration]?" Mr. Abhisit asked.
The CentralWorld shopping complex, where the crowds assembled yesterday, was one of the buildings torched during the red shirt rally on May 19 last year.
Almost 24,000 people, meanwhile, followed speeches from the stage via Mr Abhisit's Facebook page which broadcast the event live.
Bomb squads and three battalions of crowd control police were stationed at the rally. Red shirt supporters caused no disruptions during the three-hour event, which ended at 11pm.
The Pheu Thai Party had earlier told its red shirt supporters not to show up at the rally, which, they said, was a Democrat ploy to instigate unrest and blame it on the red shirts.
The Democrats hope the Ratchaprasong gathering, which will be the party's last major campaign in Bangkok, will help pull in undecided voters.
Mr. Abhisit was the last of the Democrat's heavyweights who took to the Ratchaprasong stage.
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