BANGKOK, THAILAND - The head of a government-commissioned probe into deaths during Thailand's "Red Shirt" street protests on Friday promised an unbiased investigation but said his aim was not to establish responsibility.
"I am always impartial," said Kanit Nanakorn, a former attorney general asked by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to lead an independent inquiry into the loss of 90 lives during clashes between armed troops and demonstrators.
He said, however, that the probe "is not aimed at finding who should be held responsible and to punish, but to establish the facts and educate Thai society."
Kanit also refused to set a timeframe for finishing the investigation, saying it might not be completed by the next election, due by the end of 2011 at the latest.
The main opposition party has said Kanit is too close to the government, warning of a likely "whitewash".
The Reds' rally, broken up on May 19 in an army crackdown on their vast camp in the heart of Bangkok, sparked outbreaks of violence that have left 90 people dead, including two foreign journalists, and nearly 1,900 injured.
The government has defended the use of armed troops, saying they were only authorised to fire live ammunition as warning shots, in self-defence or against "terrorists" whom it has accused of inciting the unrest.
Abhisit has said he wants somebody who is sympathetic to the Red Shirts in the panel to make sure all sides can be confident of its neutrality.
Kanit said he had not yet selected the other members of the commission, but would try to include "every colour" if possible, referring to Thailand's different political factions.
He said he planned to visit some of the detained Red Shirt leaders next Monday at a military barracks south of the Thai capital.
"I will try to invite everybody but they have to help me solve the problem, not create another problem," he said.
Kanit, 73, headed a probe into alleged extrajudicial killings of 2,500 people during a war on drugs under ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and is idolised by many Red Shirts.
That probe was not completed but is now being reopened by Abhisit's government. --AFP