BANGKOK: - Thailand's Interior Miniter Wan Muhamad Nor Matha faces a grilling by a Senate panel and possible impeachment proceedings over the handling of a violent protest last month, a report said yesterday.
Some 2,000 villagers campaigning against the construction of a Thai-Malaysian gas pipeline clashed with police in Haadyai on the eve of a meeting of the Thai and Malaysian Cabinets.
The protesters claimed they were baton-charged by 1,000 police in riot gear while peacefully saying their prayers and eating their dinner, in a confrontation that left dozens injured on both sides.
The Bangkok Post said a senate panel charged with investigating the incident believed police and not protesters might have started the trouble, despite Wan Nor's insistence that the villagers were responsible.
It said Wan Nor, the national police chief and the provincial governor responsible for Haadyai would be questioned later this month, and that because when constitutional violations were involved, impeachment proceedings were possible.
Senator Montri Sinthawichai told the daily that the government had moved against demonstrators who were only attempting to protect the local environment which they believe will be damaged by the pipeline.
“In this case, if the police had stopped pushing the protesters and kept their distance there would have been no problem,” he said after the panel met on Friday to review video of the protest and interview witnesses.
International rights monitor Amnesty International has expressed its concern over Thai security forces' handling of the demonstration and called for a thorough investigation into the events.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has claimed the protestors were armed with pellets and slingshots, and stood by the actions of the police and army despite a national outcry over the incident.
The government has vowed to go ahead with the billion-dollar gas pipeline, linking southern Thailand with an offshore field being jointly developed with Malaysia, despite objections from residents and environmentalists.
The pipeline was originally due to begin operation this year, but the plan has been stalled by strong opposition from Thai environmental groups which say it will destroy fishing grounds and cause other ecological damage. –AFP
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