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Thai PM: Leaders must exercise restraint against protesters

By Bryony Jones for CNN
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Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva said leaders had to balance the rule of law and the legitimate wishes of protesters.
  • Abhisit Vejjajiva says if protests are peaceful, no force is necessary
  • Thai PM says he only cracked down when violence broke out
  • Abhisit calls on Mubarak to "respect the wishes of the people"

(CNN) -- Thailand's Prime Minister has called on leaders troubled by civil unrest to exercise restraint, less than a year after a bloody military crackdown on the streets of Bangkok.

Abhisit Vejjajiva sent in government troops to quell long-running Red Shirt protests in the Thai capital last May. Ninety-one people died and hundreds were injured in the street battles that followed.

But as thousands gathered on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez to demand an end to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year-rule, Abhisit -- speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland -- told CNN leaders should respect the wishes of their people.

Abhisit said as long as demonstrators did not resort to violence, governments had a responsibility to restrict the use of force.

"When the protesters were peaceful [when they] were exercising their constitutional rights, there was absolutely no need for any kind of force to be used.

"Unfortunately in the protests in April and May there was violence -- grenades launched, invading hospitals and so on -- and we had to make sure that order had to be preserved."

He told CNN: "For us what was important, we needed to enforce the law [and] at the same time, we had to exercise the utmost restraint, and try to address whatever legitimate grievances these people on the streets had."

"I hope that in a number of countries, they will be able to do the same."

Asked to offer advice to Mubarak, the Thai PM said: "He should just respect the key principles of governance, respect the wishes of the people, and at the same time do his duties."

Thailand's Red Shirt protesters took to the streets to call for the return of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006.

As the demonstrations raged, Abhisit's government imposed a state of emergency, putting the military in charge of security. It was lifted in December.

Abhisit has pledged to hold fresh elections before the end of this year.