Former U.S. Ambassador to Thailand William Itoh says he is hopeful that some kind of compromise might be reached between Red Shirt protestors and the Thai government, despite Thursday's shooting of protest leader General Seh Daeng.

?I?ve always been branded an optimist about Thailand being able to deal with these kinds of issues, but I would have to say personally, this is a very, very challenging time for all of us who wish Thailand well,? he said.

In an inverview with VOA, Itoh said calling the confrontation between the protestors and the government a "class struggle" was one way of looking at it, explaining the economic divides in Thailand.

Listen to full 6 min interview with Amb. Itoh by
VOA's Ira Mellman

?There is a widening gap, I think, between the people in Bangkok particularly and people in the poorest part of Thailand in the populous part of the northeast,? he said.

Itoch was the U.S. ambassador to Thailand from 1996 through 1999. He now is faculty advisor to the University of North Carolina's Field Research Seminar on Foreign Policy in Washington, D.C.

In speaking about the connection between the protestors and exiled Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Itoh said Thaksin has undermined his own case by moving to Cambodia.

?I wouldn?t want to speculate but it seems to me that there?s a fair and a clear connection between the former Prime Minister and his followers,? he said.

Ambassador Itoh said the United States and other nations must be "very careful" when it came to intervention, saying the US must not be seen to be intervening. He said ultimately, this is a Thailand problem that must be resolved by the Thai people.

?I think ultimately people recognize that this is a Thailand problem that needs to be resolved by the Thais themselves.?