http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/547da710-6c06-11df-86c5-00144feab49a.html

By Simon Roughneen in Bangkok

Thailand’s prime minister said previously proposed November elections are not feasible “in the current environment”, 10 days after the Thai army quashed an anti-government protest in Bangkok. However, in his weekly television address on Sunday, Abhisit Vejjajiva said he believed that the situation in Thailand was “getting back to normal.”

Thai PM Abhisit Vejajjiva (centre) gets set to address foreign media in Bangkok on Saturday. (Photo: Simon Roughneen

Thai authorities have lifted a night-time curfew in place since May 19, when leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) called a halt to their two-month protest amid chaotic violence in the commercial heartland of Bangkok.

Mr Abhisit told foreign diplomats and media he did not “rule out early elections”, but believed that polls could not be held before a broader reconciliation programme was implemented. He hoped to revive a five-point peace plan offered in early May, which protest leaders initially welcomed but ultimately turned down.

A proposed election date of November 14 was then rejected by the UDD, also known as red shirts, who wanted the prime minister to dissolve the Thai parliament within 30 days. Red shirts regard the government – a coalition headed by Mr Abhisit’s Democrat party – as illegitimate.

Journalists who attended a Saturday press conference given by the prime minister were handed an eight-page statement entitled “Misperception [sic] of foreign media regarding the current situation in Thailand”. The government denied allegations that it “came to power through dubious means with manoeuvring by the military”, going on to list 11 other points that it believed had been misunderstood by foreign journalists covering two months of political violence, during which 88 people were killed.

Mr Abhisit’s administration said that Thaksin Shinawatra, former prime minister, forced the red-shirt leadership to reject the reconciliation plan. In an apparent attempt to foster divisions in the UDD, Mr Abhisit urged red shirts to “look beyond the personal interests of the former prime minister”, who was ousted in a September 2006 military coup and saw $1.4bn of his assets seized by the Thai authorities two weeks before the red-shirt protest began.

Last Tuesday, the Thai courts approved an arrest warrant for fugitive Mr Thaksin on terrorism charges. The former telecommunications entrepreneur is believed to divide his time between Dubai and Montenegro.

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