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Thai palace voices worries of political violence

Written by: Staff
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BANGKOK, Mar 12 (Reuters) Thai television aired footage today of a 1992 royal intervention to defuse political bloodshed in an expression of concern that the crisis now facing Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra could take a similar course.

All six networks showed Suchinda Kraprayoon, then head of a military-led government, and Chamlong Srimuang, who led a ''people power'' protest to oust him, prostrating themselves before revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Some 50 people were killed in the violence which led up to the fall of that government and there have been fears the biggest anti-government demonstrations since then might also end in bloodshed.

Editors said the channels showed the 1992 footage at the request of the palace on the eve of another demonstration against Thaksin in Bangkok, where a campaign against him took off in January when relatives sold the business empire he founded.

''We received a call from the Royal Household Bureau today asking every channel to ... air the footage because they don't want the situation to escalate,'' one said.

''They wanted everyone to see the king's speech again,'' the editor, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.

It was the first time the royal palace has intervened publicly in the current political crisis and came a day before the organisers of a campaign against Thaksin planned to hold another in a series of demonstrations.

SNAP ELECTIONS They planned to start it tomorrow night near the glittering Grand Palace and march on Tuesday morning to Thaksin's office at Government House, where the cabinet is due to meet.

The demonstrations have attracted large crowds of mainly middle class people outraged by the tax-free 1.9 billion dollars sale of Shin Corp, the telecommunications conglomerate Thaksin founded, by his relatives to a Singapore state investment firm.

So far, the demonstrations have been peaceful and police have kept a low profile, but the transmission of the 1992 royal audience emphasised fears they may not remain so in a country with a long a relatively recent history of military coups.

The 1992 royal audience came after protesters led by Chamlong were killed by troops near the Grand Palace.

Chamlong, a 70-year-old ascetic retired general and former governor of Bangkok who brought Thaksin into politics, is now a member of the coalition trying to oust his former protege, who fought back by calling a snap election for April 2.

The three main opposition parties have decided to boycott an election they say cannot be free and fair because Thaksin has taken control of institutions, such as the Election Commission, meant to be independent.

The non-parliamentary coalition says it will continue the demonstrations until Thaksin quits.

Thaksin says he will not bow to ''mob rule'' and accuses the parliamentary opposition of betraying democracy by boycotting the snap election.

Calls for compromise by senior royal advisors have gone unheeded so far.

REUTERS KD RK2108

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