Thailand: religious leaders appeal for peace after deadly riots



A Catholic bishop and a leading Buddhist monk have called on the Thai government and 'red-shirt' demonstrators to renew talks after violent clashes left 21 dead and hundreds injured.

Bishop Bunluen Mansap, former head of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, said: “In today’s Thailand, anger and hatred are spreading across the country."

“What endangers the country is not civil war, it is anger and hatred, and there seem to be lots of people with hatred today,” said the retired bishop of Ubon Ratchathani.

He urged all Thais to accept different opinions and beliefs. “All humans have the potential to love each other but are divided by politics and ideology,” he said.

The bishop said the government and protesters should end all hostile activities and restart talks.

The 'red shirts',  a loose coalition of political activists and supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, have been encamped in Thailand’s capital for nearly a month. They claim the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva is illegitimate and are calling for the immediate dissolution of parliament and early elections.

On Saturday, Thai security forces moved in to break up demonstrators gathered in several key locations in Bangkok. In the violent confrontations that followed, shots were fired by both sides and explosive devices and tear gas were used.

According to Thai media reports today, 21 people were killed and 858 others injured during the clashes. Both soldiers and civilians were among the dead. Also killed was a Japanese cameraman working for Reuters news agency.

Venerable Paisan Visalo, a Buddhist monk who heads the Nonviolence Network said: “We are sad about the deaths and injured, both soldiers and protesters. Violence helps to settle a problem temporarily, but creates new problems in the long run, or even exacerbates old problems."

“We have more in common than differences: the pursuit of happiness, aversion to suffering, longing for respect, the desire to be good and caring for people’s dignity.”

He called on the Thai government and demonstrators to adopt peaceful measures to solve the conflict.

The Nonviolence Network consists of the Research Center for Peace Building at Mahidol University, the Buddhika Network, the People Who Do Not Accept Civil War Network, the Young Peace Study Group, and the Stop Hurting Thailand Network.

Source: Fides

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