US 'regrets' loss of life, urges restraint and peaceful dialogue

Anti-government protesters use personalised protective gear while attempting to remove barricades outside Government House in Bangkok on Dec 2, 2013. The United States voiced regret on Monday that several people have been killed in clashes rocki
Anti-government protesters use personalised protective gear while attempting to remove barricades outside Government House in Bangkok on Dec 2, 2013. The United States voiced regret on Monday that several people have been killed in clashes rocking Thailand and urged the opposition and beleaguered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to hold talks to end the political crisis. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States voiced regret on Monday that several people have been killed in clashes rocking Thailand and urged the opposition and beleaguered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to hold talks to end the political crisis.

"We are concerned about the continuing political tension in Thailand and we are following the situation closely," State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said.

"Peaceful protest and freedom of expression are important aspects of democracy...Violence and seizure of public or private property, however, are not acceptable means of resolving political differences."

US ambassador Kristie Kenney had spoken with Ms Yingluck and with opposition leaders to "encourage restraint and peaceful dialogue," Ms Psaki told reporters.

"We certainly deeply regret the loss of life in Bangkok due to politically motivated violence. We condemn violence as a means to achieve political objectives and urge all sides to exercise restraint and respect the rule of law," she added.

Ms Yingluck on Monday rejected the demands of demonstrators who have urged her to quit, as police issued an arrest warrant for "insurrection" against the protest leader.

Police used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon against rock-throwing demonstrators as they strengthened their defence of key government buildings, after weekend unrest in the capital left several dead and more than 100 wounded.

The protests, aimed at unseating the elected government and replacing it with a "people's council", are the latest outbreak of civil strife to rock the kingdom since royalist generals ousted Mr Thaksin Shinawatra, Ms Yingluck's brother, seven years ago.