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NEWS UPDATES 12 June 2010

Thailand seeks US support in reconciliation bid

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The Thai government envoy has asked the United States for support in its plan for national reconciliation following the recent red-shirt protest, according to Reuters.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dispatched Kiat Sittheeamorn to Washington to make the case that the red-shirt protesters who occupied central Bangkok for weeks included armed and Marxist elements.

Mr. Kiat met with members of Congress and President Barack Obama's administration. He said that the Thai government welcomed US "suggestions" but was pursuing its own reconciliation plan.

"We ourselves also see some difficulties in negotiating and discussing with the red shirts. If the US extends a helping hand, I don't know if it will have different results," he continued.

"There is also the risk that it might complicate the issue even further," said Kiat, who is Thailand's trade negotiator.

Kiat recalled Thailand's reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks when "our friends were in trouble."

"Do we have concern that from now on we should advise our people not to come to the United States? Are we concerned that the United States government cannot handle the situation? Certainly not," he said.

"We always respect the decisions of any government; it's their right. But obviously it would be nice to see that... when your friends are in difficulties, we get all the support you can," he said.

The army broke up the red-shirt rally May 19 after weeks of protracted negotiations broke down. The clashes left 89 people dead.

During the crisis, Thailand summoned the US ambassador to protest after Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, met a group of red shirts on a brief visit to Bangkok.

Kiat said that while "the intention of Mr. Campbell is good," he believes that the State Department has since gained a "better understanding" of the situation.

Kiat said that some Red Shirts had "legitimate grievances," but they did not constitute a "straight-forward demonstration" as they included armed groups and "Marxist-Leninist ideologists."

The Red Shirts are composed of rural and urban poor who say they are disenfranchised by the political system. About 39 buildings were torched in the aftermath of the dispersal of the main body of protesters.

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