World churches leader calls for nonviolent way forward in Thailand

By staff writers
May 20, 2010

The World Council of Churches has lamented the "intolerable loss of life" in Thailand and asked for all parties to abandon violence and return to negotiations.

In a letter to the Church of Christ in Thailand, sent before the assault by troops on the protesters' garrison yesterday, WCC General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, has expressed "a deep sense of sorrow" as news came in about "the continuing upsurge in violence which has led to the deaths of more than thirty people in Bangkok".

"We grieve with the people of Thailand at this intolerable loss of life and extend our condolences to the families of those that have died", Tveit wrote.

As soldiers targeted pockets of resistance and the government declared it was back in control, fears grew today (20 May) that the tentative quiet restored to Thailand's capital after a bloody crackdown on protests may just be a respite from violence and political polarisation that could continue for years, reports AP.

Leaders of the Red Shirt protest movement also vowed to return as they were taken into custody.

"I think this is a new beginning for the Red Shirts," said Kevin Hewison, a Thailand expert at the University of North Carolina.

"It will be a darker and grimmer time of struggle and less-focused activities. By no stretch of the imagination is the movement finished," he added.

Meanwhile, the WCC General Secretary called upon "all parties involved in the present crisis to exercise restraint in actions and words, and particularly to abandon violence as a means of solving problems".

He strongly urged "a return to negotiations for a peaceful resolution to the current crisis". "Violence cannot be the solution" he added.

Tveit pointed out to the need for "an open and thorough investigation of the actions taken by all sides so that those who resort to violence are held accountable to the rule of law".

Tveit expressed the "firm solidarity of the WCC with the people of Thailand in this time of distress" and commended the Church of Christ in Thailand "for their faithful witness to the Prince of Peace".

He encouraged the church "to strengthen their work in seeking justice and peace for all" and called on "all member churches within the fellowship of the WCC to join in prayers with the churches and Christians in Thailand".


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