Thai PM urges Myanmar to avoid "harsh measures"

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NEW YORK, Sep 26 (Reuters) Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont urged the military rulers of neighboring Myanmar TOday to avoid violence in dealing with the biggest anti-junta protests in 20 years.

''I'm trying my best to convince the Burmese: 'Don't use the harsh measures','' he told a gathering at the Asia Society in New York, where he is attending the UN General Assembly.

''At least they should try to avoid the violent action from the government side,'' said the retired general, who was named prime minister after last year's bloodless military coup in Thailand.

''As a Buddhist and as a soldier, I can say that it will be very difficult for the Burmese government to use violence to crack down on the monks. It will be against the way of life of the Buddhists,'' Surayud said, speaking in English.

Two monks and a civilian were killed in Myanmar, hospital and monastery sources said, as decades of pent-up frustration at 45 years of unbroken military rule in the former Burma produced the largest crowds yet during a month of protests.

Thailand came under military rule a year ago, when then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was deposed in a coup while attending the UN General Assembly. The country is gearing up for a December 23 general election.

Surayud said he was familiar with some members of the secretive junta that runs Myanmar, which shares a long border with Thailand.

''I know some of them and I think that they will be very careful in terms of trying to deal with the political situation,'' he said.

Reuters KK VP0148

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