* All Images *
PAD thug at Government House, September 2008.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) has just released its latest report on Thailand called "Calming the Political Turmoil".
Of key importance is the very real issue that the prolonged protests held by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) have hobbled the government's ability to resolve other, ongoing, country-wide troubles.
The southern insurgency, border skirmishes with Cambodia, and the struggling economy are all issues that have been jettisoned by the government.
Instead of confronting and attempting to address such issues, the government has been forced to solely focus on the PAD protests.
This singular focus is allowing other issues to fester and take on a life of their own.
And of course, these issues need focused and serious attention - they can neither be ignored or neglected.
Yet the protest gridlock needs to be resolved first and the ICG suggests the following:
If Thailand is to step back from the brink of further political chaos, several actions are required:
- All parties should commit to resolving their differences through peaceful and democratic means.
- Senior establishment and army figures should cease sending mixed signals and make clear their support for Thailand’s elected government and the rule of law.
- The PAD should respect the rule of law and cease its illegal occupation of Government House, and the nine PAD leaders for whom arrest warrants have been issued should surrender.
- Army leaders should negotiate with the PAD to end the occupation and remove the protesters, emphasising that the PAD’s legitimacy is undermined by its failure to respect the rule of law. The negotiations should be backed by graduated steps by the police – short of force – to end the occupation. If those techniques are exhausted but protesters remain and the negotiations stall, the police should make plans to evict them, if they are sure it can be achieved without bloodshed.
- A consultative and inclusive process should be instituted to amend the military-imposed constitution with the aim of finding a balance between giving the executive sufficient power to govern and ensuring effective checks and balances.
- The international community – including Thailand’s ASEAN partners – should make clear to all parts of the Thai elite that another coup would meet with international condemnation, and that it would not continue to do business as usual with a government which came to power in such circumstances. ASEAN countries should emphasise the discredit which such a development would bring on the association at a time when Thailand holds the ASEAN chair.