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NEWS UPDATES 10 May 2010

US official meets red shirt protesters, praises road map

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US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell met with red-shirt protesters Sunday before applauding Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's road map, unveiled last week as a peaceful way to end the country's political turmoil, local English-language daily the Nation reported.

Campbell met key figures from the opposition such as Pongthep Thepkanjana, Chaturon Chaisaeng and Noppadon Pattama. Pongthep and Chaturon are former Cabinet ministers banned from politics for five years under a court order, while Noppadon is a lawyer who is now spokesman for the Shinawatra family.

"More than 10 Democrats were also invited to attend the breakfast meeting, but none of them went. Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and government spokesman Panitan Wattanaya-gorn also declined the invitation," a political source said.

Campbell said he came to Bangkok not to mediate a break-through or back any outcome.

"Even though Thailand is going through a difficult period, there is reason to be encour-aged by efforts from all sides to bridge the differences between the government and the UDD (DAAD) protesters and to negoti-ate a fair and endurable compromise," he said.

"We strongly welcome the PM's road map for national rec-onciliation and commitment for holding new elections. We're also encouraged by the UDD's positive response to the road map and hope that its leaders will seize this opportunity to responsibly and expeditiously lead Thailand out of its current predicament."

Campbell's statement reflects Washington's support for the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD)'s campaign. Missing from his speech was any mention of the US position in regard to armed elements within the red shirts, which have been battling the Abhisit government and blamed for recent violence in Bangkok.

"Restraint and foresight are critical for both sides at this time. However, it must be said that we remain cautious about progress as those who don't want peace or political progress continue to employ violence as a means to undermine resolution of political differences, like the unfortunate shooting on Friday night that resulted in a loss of lives," he said.

"In addition to those injured directly, political violence dam-ages the reputation of the nation, undermines democratic institutions and legal mechanisms for dispute resolution. We call on both sides to urge restraint and to firmly commit to a process of peaceful reconcili-ation in support of the rule of law and the pursuit of a just and democratic outcome."


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