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Thai foreign minister seeks condemnation of protesters

  |   Feb. 14, 2014 at 2:01 AM
BANGKOK, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Thailand's foreign minister said the international community should support his country by condemning anti-government protesters whose leaders urged a boycott of recent elections.

Caretaker Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul made the plea Thursday, saying the protesters violated the rule of law by boycotting polling Feb. 2, the Bangkok Post reported.

Surapong was addressing a gathering of diplomats and ambassadors from 51 countries and officials of four international organizations at the Foreign Ministry.

''I want to see the United Nations be the first to condemn them," he said.

He also said a condemnation of the protesters was in line with the United Nations Charter and wouldn't be interference in Thailand's internal affairs, the Post reported.

Surapong last briefed foreign envoys Jan. 13 when protesters forced closure of the ministry.

At that time, the ministry issued a 13-minute video blaming the closure on anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee leader Suthep Thuagsuban and other protest leaders, the Post reported.

Thuagsuban, 64, resigned from the opposition Democrat Party -- which boycotted the elections -- to lead the protests.

Surapong promised the envoys the caretaker government would proceed with the outstanding polls as soon as possible.

The protests and boycotts meant polling couldn't take place in about 10 percent of constituencies.

Thailand's Election Commission said Tuesday voting will take place April 20 and 27 in parts of Bangkok and in nine provinces in the southern region.

Until then, Thailand will have a caretaker government made up of the previous administration of Yingluck Shinawatra.

The Reform Committee and other protesters, mostly urban middle class Thais, accuse the Shinawatra family, whose power base lies with the rural poor, of corruption and nepotism.

Yingluck unseated the Democrat Party in elections in 2011. Her Pheu Thai party picked up a majority in the Lower House, with 265 seats to the Democrat Party's 159.

But her administration has been hobbled by accusations she is a surrogate leader for her disgraced brother Thaksin. He was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 2006 that left the country divided.

Thaksin, who led the Pheu Thai party, denied the allegations, but was sentenced in 2008 and soon after fled the country.

Since the latest round of anti-government protests began in November, 10 people have died in attacks and confrontations.

Thuagsuban had been leading the demonstrations and was fighting for the government to be replaced with an unelected committee that would institute political reforms ahead of elections.

Thuagsuban also is fighting indictment on charges of murder and attempted murder from when he was Democrat Party deputy prime minister to Abhisit Vejjajiva from 2008 to 2011.

Charges against him stem from the crackdown on protesters during political violence in 2010 in which more than 90 people died and hundreds were injured, the Post reported.

Vejjajiva, a co-defendant in the case, has been indicted, but Thuagsuban's indictment has been postponed three times.

Continued unrest in the streets and an unstable government is scaring away tourists, caretaker Tourism and Sports Minister Somsak Phurisisak told a cabinet meeting Wednesday.

The Post reported he said Bangkok in particular has been affected, mostly by the loss of visitors from Japan.

Phurisisak recently returned from a visit to Hokkaido to reassure Japanese tour operators Thailand is safe for tourists.

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