Pattaya Daily News

15 April 2009 :: 09:04:49 am 38361

Life Goes On But Emergency Decree Stands: Thai Pm

BANGKOK, April 14 - In an attempt to cope with any untoward incidents which might occur in the capital and elsewhere in outlying areas following Monday's unrest which saw two civilians killed and 123 others injured, Thailand?s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Tuesday the Emergency Decree remains in force even though anti-government protests have ended and a certain degree of normalcy has been restored.
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In a televised address to the nation, Mr. Abhisit said the emergency rule, declared to coincide with the country’s weeklong Songkran festivities, must be maintained–especially in Bangkok–so that the police and the military could effectively deter further disorder and maintain order, though thousands of Red Shirt anti-government protesters had already dispersed from areas around Government House and arrest warrants had been issued for a dozen leaders of the National United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD).

The prime minister also declared Thursday-Friday 16-17 April as additional national holidays in lieu of this year?s unpeaceful traditional Thai new year, Songkran.

Things remain to be done in line with the Emergency Decree, Mr. Abhisit said..

The government must remain cautious and vigilant. In sensitive areas covered by the Decree, security and police forces are still deployed but I urge the public not to panic, as this is part of the government’s mission to ensure riots do not recur, he said.

Assessing the situation, the prime minister said anti-government elements remained active in several spots outside Government House throughout the afternoon, though these demonstrators no longer wore red shirts.

The government understands the residual effects of the sentiment. However, we are trying our best to empathise and communicate with them in order to ease mutual tension, he said.

Mr Abhisit is adamant that the government’s crackdown on demonstrations did not result in fatalities.

The two fatalities were killed during confrontation between demonstrators and the angry public, not as a result of security forces? operation, he said.

He also announced that the Cabinet resolved to declare 16-17 April as public holidays to give time for officials to restore normalcy and to give more time for the tense Thai public to relax.

The prime minister said legal action will be pursued against those responsible for inciting the unrest and violence. He gave assurances that all those charged will be equal before the law.

Even though the unrest has come to an end, the government did not deem this a victory or defeat by any particular party. Rather, If it is victory, it is society’s victory that peace and order has been restored, said Mr. Abhisit, appealing for reconciliation among conflicting parties so that the country can move on.

The premier added that all parties may convene and discuss ways and means to bring about a peaceful solution to the prolonged political chaos. (TNA)_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
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By COLUM MURPHY

Over the past few years, Thailand’s political elites have waged a battle on the streets of the capital using mobs to throw democratically elected governments out of power. Now it is the turn of the supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the deposed former prime minister, to wreak their revenge. Meanwhile the economic losses mount, and one of Asia’s oldest democracies looks more and more fragile. So where did Thailand go wrong

For decades, power-brokers in the military, parliament and boardroom used the government to enrich themselves. The populist Mr. Thaksin threatened their interests by obtaining a strong democratic mandate to start expensive government programs to benefit the rural poor, and also to open the door wider to the forces of globalization and competition. Last weekend’s riots by the “Red Shirts,” Mr. Thaksin’s supporters, mimicked the tactics used by the anti-Thaksin forces, the “Yellow Shirts,” in late 2008. That group also surrounded government buildings and blockaded Bangkok’s airports for days, bringing the country to a virtual standstill.

Both protests reflect an increasingly polarized Thai society. On the Yellow side are monarchists who profess loyalty to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the army, many academics, some of the business elite, and ordinary Thais mainly from the southern provinces. On the Red side are supporters of Mr. Thaksin, including business owners who benefited under his rule, and many rural voters especially in the north and northeast of the country who also reaped the rewards of his populist “Thaksinomics.”

The Reds have the advantage of sheer numbers, and most probably free and fair elections would return pro-Thaksin forces to leadership. The Yellows claim legitimacy because of their loyalty to the king; they also have the army and, for the most part, the police force behind them. In the middle are large numbers of ordinary Thais who want to get back to stability and prosperity.

But those goals will remain elusive unless the Red-Yellow divide can be bridged. A key obstacle is how to handle Mr. Thaksin, who fled corruption charges in August 2008 and faces a two-year prison sentence. In an interview in Dubai last month, he stressed his loyalty to the king, and said he wanted to return to Thailand to act as an “adviser” to the government. “I am a domestic dog that can be tamed any time. I’m tame already and I can be tamed again,” he told me.

Full rehabilitation of Mr. Thaksin most probably would require a pardon, whether by the king or the parliament. Yet there are other steps that could be taken — and that don’t necessarily need to factor in Mr. Thaksin directly — that also might pave the way for meaningful reconciliation.

The government could grant amnesty to the 111 members of Mr. Thaksin’s now-defunct Thai Rak Thai Party, allowing them to re-enter the political arena. This group, including Mr. Thaksin, was banned from politics for five years by a junta-appointed panel for breaking electoral laws prior to the parliamentary elections of April 2, 2006.

The current Constitution of 2007 could be amended to reflect better the so-called People’s Constitution of 1997. Many consider this Constitution the most democratic in the country’s history, not least because it was drawn up with extensive public consultation, and for the first time called for direct elections to both the upper and lower houses of parliament. In any case, greater power needs to be returned to the elected members of parliament and removed from nonelected institutions and representatives of the state. Some of the reforms of the 1997 Constitution were rolled back in 2007.

More importantly, there should be fresh elections as soon as possible. By hanging on to power until the bitter end, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his coalition government risk doing more harm than good. The prime minister should recognize that the current situation is untenable.

In January, Mr. Abhisit told me that he would go to the people when the time was right, and that priority should be given to solving the country’s economic woes. In the space of a few short months, the violence and disorder have proven him wrong. Putting the long-term issues on hold has not helped Thailand politically or economically. Instead, it is prolonging the pain and making it more difficult to heal the divisions of society and steer the country toward economic recovery.

Mr. Murphy is deputy editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Thailand News

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