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Thai foreign minister under fire

OPPOSITION members in Thailand's Parliament yesterday called for the resignation of the foreign minister after police filed charges against him for alleged involvement in demonstrations that climaxed with the seizure of Bangkok's airports last year.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and 35 other leaders of the "Yellow Shirt" movement face criminal charges including illegal assembly, attempts to stir unrest, and breaches of aviation law and terrorism for the eight-day siege of Bangkok's two airports last November and December.

They were summoned to report to police on July 16, said Police Lieutenant General Wuthi Puavej.

The charges brought a controversy surrounding Kasit's appointment as foreign minister to the forefront.

"The charges are very serious. How could he represent our country as a foreign minister? He has no credibility left," said Prompong Nopparit, spokesman of the opposition Phuea Thai Party.

Kasit spoke at several rallies by the protesters, who sought to topple the previous government allied with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. They accused Thaksin, who was toppled in a military coup in 2006, of massive corruption and abuse of power.

The protesters occupied the prime minister's office compound for three months and shut down Bangkok's airports. Kasit later hailed the blockade as an "innovation in public protests."

On Sunday, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Kasit will remain in office while he fights the charges.

Kasit declined to comment on the charges after returning to Bangkok yesterday from Qatar.


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