BANGKOK, Nov 25: Thailand's prime minister said on Thursday he would walk out of this month's Asean summit if leaders raised the violent deaths of 87 Muslim protesters in the kingdom's south.

"If the topic is raised, I will fly back home," Thaksin Shinawatra told reporters before the Nov 29-30 meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Laos. "To interfere in internal affairs at a multilateral meeting is not the right thing to do and the chairman should not let it happen."

Thailand's government said it explained the deaths of the protesters on Oct 25 to embassies to try to soothe international anger. A government-appointed commission is investigating the incident.

The incident has inflamed Muslim opinion in Thailand and elsewhere. Former leaders of Malaysia, a fellow member of Asean, have strongly criticised Mr Thaksin's hard-line approach in the region.

The killings - which prompted a spate of retaliatory attacks on Buddhists in the region - are not on the agenda but analysts said they expected them to feature in behind-the-scenes talks.

An official attending the Asean summit said the regional bloc was unlikely to force the issue. "The non-interference in internal affairs is a golden rule and is usually respected," he said. -APP

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