Asean urges 'peaceful resolution' to Thai crisis

NAYPYIDAW - Southeast Asia's regional bloc called Sunday for a "peaceful resolution" to the political crisis gripping Thailand, days after a controversial court ruling removed prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra from power.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw this weekend in the absence of a top-level Thai representative following Wednesday's judicial ruling ousting Yingluck from office for abuse of power.

In a statement by ASEAN foreign ministers, the bloc said it was closely monitoring the situation in Thailand, where both pro- and anti-government protesters have been drawn onto the streets, raising fears of unrest.

ASEAN member states "emphasise their full support for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing challenge in the country through dialogue and in full respect of democratic principles and rule of law," it said.

The ministers stressed the importance of "promoting national reconciliation and the return of normalcy in Thailand, in accordance with the will and interests of the people".

Opposition demonstrators have vowed to step up their efforts to topple the government - still clinging to power despite Yingluck's removal - unless a new leader is appointed.

They want an unelected premier to oversee political reforms to rid the country of the influence of the electorally popular Shinawatras, before polls are held in about 18 months' time.

Opponents say Yingluck was a puppet of her exiled brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted as prime minister in a 2006 military coup.

Government supporters, who began a major rally this weekend on the outskirts of Bangkok, have warned that handing power to an unelected government could lead to civil war.

The country has not had a functioning lower house since Yingluck dissolved parliament in December for elections that were later voided because of disruption by protesters.

Thailand's protracted political crisis has divided the country since Thaksin was toppled.

It broadly pits Thaksin's foes among the country's elite, the Bangkok middle class and southerners against his supporters in the rural north and among the urban poor.