Thai PM prays for peace and end to poverty

TNA, Oct 31, 2004

CHIANG MAI, Thailand -- Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra today spend a peaceful morning in a tranquil northern temple praying for peace in the southern region and an end to poverty and bird flu, while admitting to feeling stressed by the country?s problems.

After a week in which he has been blasted by critics over the escalation of violence in the southern border region, the prime minister travelled to the mountaintop temple of Wat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai Province this morning, before proceeding to Wat Rong Dhammasamakhi where he visited the Shinawatra family graves and gave kathina robes to Buddhist monks.

Speaking after the merit-making ceremony, the prime minister revealed that he had prayed for three things: an end to poverty, peace in the southern border region and the disappearance of bird flu from Thailand.

Admitting to feeling stressed from trying to solve the nation?s problems, Mr. Thaksin said that addressing the violence in the southern border region over a short period of time was proving the largest worry. Nonetheless, he expressed confidence that the southern situation would eventually return to normal, and that the international community was increasingly behind his government?s position.

He also ruled out the possibility of a change in personnel in the southern border region following last week?s incident in which 85 Muslim protestors died in military custody, saying that southern-based officials were doing their jobs well.