Thailand Issues Terrorism Arrest Warrant for Thaksin

A Thai soldier walks by a poster of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra left behind by anti-government protesters in Bangkok, Thailand, 21 May 2010
A Thai court issued an arrest warrant for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra Tuesday, on terrorism charges.

Special investigations Chief Tharit Pengdit told reporters there is enough evidence to believe that Mr. Thaksin was the mastermind behind mass protests in Bangkok by the anti-government Red Shirt movement.

The former Thai leader, now in exile in Dubai, is considered as a hero by many Red Shirts, mostly rural and urban poor, for his populist policies.

Thai officials say protest-related violence killed at least 88 people and wounded almost 1,900 since March.

Terrorism charges carry a maximum penalty of death in Thailand.

Thailand's Cabinet has extended a curfew in Bangkok and 23 provinces for four more nights.

Officials said Tuesday the prime minister and Cabinet ministers decided not to extend the curfew for a full week as suggested by emergency officials because they wanted to limit the impact on the public.

Authorities re-opened streets in Bangkok's commercial hub to traffic Monday for the first time since opposition Red Shirt protesters began occupying them in mid-March.

Trading resumed this week on the Thai stock exchange following its closure Wednesday amid the fighting. The main stock index ended Monday's session down 2.8 percent.

The Thai government said the country's economy grew 12 percent in the first three months of the year from the same period a year earlier. But it said the unrest that began toward the end of that quarter likely will cut Thailand's economic growth for 2010 by 1.5 percent.

Human rights workers began Monday investigating the protests and the government's response to them. A Law Society of Thailand member said many people suffered rights violations. He called on the government to hold an independent inquiry into those abuses.

Opposition lawmakers allied to the Red Shirts filed a parliamentary motion Monday to censure Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and other ministers for their handling of the crisis. The motion was likely to fail because Mr. Abhisit's coalition has a majority in the assembly.

The Red Shirts have demanded early elections to replace a government they see as elitist and illegitimate.
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