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NEWS UPDATES 24 June2010

Thailand could hold elections in early 2011

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Thailand could hold elections in early 2011, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said in Brussels Wednesday, in the wake of bloody opposition protests.

Independent bodies examining a raft of reforms could present their conclusions by the end of the year, paving the way for a referendum on a new constitution at the start of 2011, Kasit said at a policy forum in Brussels.

"I guess that by spring we should have elections and a new government formed by the middle of next year under a new constitution amended, constitution approved by the people at the referendum," he said.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva originally proposed November polls in a bid to end crippling protests in Bangkok by the "Red Shirts" movement, but shelved the plan because demonstrators refused to disperse until the army moved in, AFP reports.

The Reds' rally was broken up on May 19 in an army crackdown on their vast camp in the heart of Bangkok. A series of violent clashes and the final military assault left 90 people dead and nearly 1,900 injured.

The protesters were campaigning for elections they hoped would oust the government, which they view as undemocratic because it came to power with the backing of the army after a court ruling threw out the previous administration.

Most of the Red Shirt leaders are in jail or wanted on terrorism charges for their roles in the two-month-long mass rally.

Kasit insisted that the government was not seeking revenge against the opposition protesters.

"We are a government that observes the rule of law," he said, adding: "There is no discrimination, there is no vendetta."

The Thai foreign minister also defended the formation of a committee that will examine reform of the media, which he accused of being "instruments of the political fight."

"A lot of journalists, directors of the media were on the payroll on the two sides of the political divide in the Thai society," he said.

"Media reform is for the good of everyone, not for the control or the suppression of the media freedom," Kasit said.


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