Wednesday April 15 2009
By Richard Spencer in Bangkok
Daily Telegraph (UK)
Thaksin Shinawatra called for the release of the protest leaders after they gave themselves up when the army moved in to surround them.
Arrest warrants have been issued for 14 more opposition leaders, including Thaksin, who went into self-imposed exile last year before a court convicted him of violating conflict of interest laws.
Speaking from Dubai, Thaksin said the Thai government should seek "reconciliation" with its opponents, who wear red shirts in contrast to the yellow tops worn by government loyalists.
"They have to talk to the leaders not just arrest them and put them into jail," he said. "Violence begets violence. If they imprison the leaders there will be more violence.
"If you think you can use power to crush people you can't expect that they will just be silent."
The last of the protesters, who had been besieging Government House for three weeks, gave up and left yesterday. They had been surrounded overnight by thousands of soldiers. Four of the leaders turned themselves in to police.
Thaksin said he had not ordered the surrender but he had told the leaders to be careful and to "worry about life" after a day of violence on Monday when protesters clashed with soldiers across Bangkok.
More than 120 people were reported injured and two were confirmed dead.
Thaksin denied that the end to the demonstrations marked a personal defeat.
"I never fought," he said, insisting that he had been offering "moral support" to the demonstrators, not directing their activities.
The claim is at odds with his explosive video addresses over the past three weeks to crowds in Bangkok, culminating in a call for a "revolution" at the weekend.
Thaksin, whose main support is among the poor, incited the crowds by alleging that a conspiracy of elite interests overthrew his government in a military coup in 2006.