Thai gov't approves payments to protest victims

AP News
Posted: Jan 10, 2012 9:01 AM
Thai gov't approves payments to protest victims

Thailand's Cabinet approved compensation Tuesday for victims of the violent political conflicts that have wracked the country for almost seven years, as the new government takes steps toward reconciliation.

About 2 billion baht ($62.8 million) in total will be given to people who suffered physical and mental losses since mass protests started in 2005, government spokeswoman Thitima Chaisaeng said. The protests led to a 2006 military coup that further polarized supporters and opponents of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The payments were recommended by an official Truth for Reconciliation Commission established after the violence crested in April-May 2010, when anti-government protests in the capital left 91 people killed and hundreds hurt.

Payments of 4.5 million baht ($141,510) are earmarked for families of those killed, while smaller sums will cover disabilities and medical treatments. Payments will also be made to people unfairly detained for prolonged periods.

Deputy spokesman Anusorn Eiamsa-Ard says the reparations show the government "is aware of and could feel the pain" of the affected people from all sides.

Some compensation has already been paid to those killed in 2010. The government is also offering much smaller compensation packets to victims of last year's catastrophic floods, which devastated some areas in and around the capital.

Political violence has eased since the government sent the army to quash the 2010 protests, which made Bangkok's central business district look like an armed camp full of garrisoned troops and protesters' barricades made of bamboo and tires.

Thaksin was ousted after being accused of abuse of power and lives in exile while avoiding a jail sentence for corruption.

His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was elected prime minister last year, but there are fears that Thaksin's foes would take to the streets again if he is pardoned and allowed to return. Thaksin's supporters, the so-called Red Shirts who staged the 2010 protest against a government led by his rivals, could also turn out again if tensions began rising again.