Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Saturday pledged to be accountable for any of his decisions leading to misdeeds during a two—month—long showdown with protestors that left up to 88 people dead and Bangkok in flames.
“I know that I am accountable for what happened,” Mr. Abhisit told his first press conference with the foreign media since the May 19 crackdown on red—shirted protestors in the heart of Bangkok.
Altogether at least 88 people have died, including two foreign journalists and 11 security personnel, in Bangkok street battles and random attacks since April 10, when the government first ordered troops to crack down on an anti—government protest that kicked off on March 12.
The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, or red shirts, were demanding Mr. Abhisit dissolve parliament and hold new elections.
Troops finally dispersed the protestors occupying Bangkok’s central commercial district on May 19, igniting a looting and arson rampage that left at least 29 buildings destroyed and Thailand’s international reputation in tatters.
There have been reports that the military opened fire on protestors, including red shirts who had fled to a Buddhist temple near the protest site.
Mr. Abhisit said he had ordered independent investigations in to the various cases of suspected atrocities.
“If the findings suggest my responsibility for whatever decisions, I will take that,” Mr. Abhisit said.
Mr. Abhisit’s Democrat—led government will face a censure motion on Monday and Tuesday. He also faces impeachment charges by the opposition.
The 45—year—old premier pointed out that he had offered the red shirts a peaceful solution to their conflict, including a pledge to hold elections on Novemebr 14, but they had refused it.
He blamed the collapse of the peace process to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, the main ringleader and financier of the red movement.
“The former prime minister has been a big obstacle to a lot of compromises and plans for reconciliation, and I believe he continues to be an obstacle,” Mr. Abhisit said.
A Thai court on Monday approved an arrest warrant for Mr. Thaksin on terrorism charges for his participation in the protests, which included armed attacks on troops by protestors.
The former billionaire telecommunications tycoon has been living in self—imposed exile since 2008 to avoid a two—year jail term in Thailand on abuse of power charges.
Meanwhile, on Saturday the Thai government lifted a night curfew in force for Bangkok since May 19.
The curfew was lifted in Bangkok and 23 provinces, but a state of emergency would be maintained due to ongoing security threats.
With their leadership under arrest or in hiding, there have been warnings that the movement could turn to armed insurgency.
“I firmly believe that the people who want to engage in violence is a very small minority,” Mr. Abhisit said.
“Because it is a small minority, I believe we can deal with them.”