Saturday, 20 March 2010

Leader Abhisit says Thailand divided

via CAAI News Media

Friday, 19 March 2010
By Alastair Leithead
BBC News, Bangkok

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has admitted his country is divided, as protests continue in the capital.

Thousands of demonstrators are still camped out in Bangkok after a week of rallies which saw them daubing blood on the gates of Government House.

But they number far fewer than those who gathered at the start of this week.

Speaking to the BBC from a military base, Mr Abhisit said he had offered to meet leaders of the red-shirt movement to talk about their grievances.

The prime minister appeared confident and pleased with the way he had handled the demonstration so far, but admitted the country was divided, and not just between the cities and the rural areas.

" All governments must try to address the issues that are of concern to urban and rural people alike "
Abhisit Vejjajiva,
Thai Prime Minister

"I'm saying that the divisions do run deep, and that political differences occur in a democracy," he said. "But we have to stick to the rule of law."

"We try to make sure that we can somehow move this country forward in terms of political conflicts, so that they can be resolved through the ballot box and also through the court procedures, depending on the issues, and that all governments must try to address the issues that are of concern to urban and rural people alike."

Mr Abhisit said he was doing all he could to bring Thailand together, including policies to help the economy in the countryside, and said he had offered to meet red-shirt leaders in order to tackle their grievances.

He denied being a puppet of the military, as some opponents suggest, but he gave the interview from the military headquarters where he has been working and sleeping all week.

Demonstrators daubed their own blood on the gates of Government House and the prime minister's house as part of their demonstrations, and they have said they will block traffic in Bangkok on Saturday.

Mr Vejjajiva said he was pleased there had been no violence, saying he was confident the government was in control and managing the situation.

He said he was happy to allow demonstrations in the country, as long as they were constitutional and non-violent.

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