David Lyman has an op-ed in the Bangkok Post. Key excerpts:
The current ruling party, whose strings are surely still being pulled by Thaksin himself, has thus far remained intractable and uncompromising.
Public pressure forced the dissolution of parliament on Dec 9, and the Pheu Thai government now stays on only in a caretaker role. To find a relief valve from the pressures boxing her in, the prime minister states that she wants dialogue with the leader of the protesters, the contrarian-in-chief, a former member of parliament and former senior member of the leading opposition political party. He demurs, insisting that the prime minister and other members of her government must go before any further discussions can take place.
Despite the mounting pressure, Ms Yingluck has repeatedly stated that she will not resign. The caretaker government continues to function, though in a more limited capacity. It soldiers on despite the chorus of alarm and dissent against it, even now including that emanating from among the cadre of civil servants, academics, the organised business community, professionals, civil society and a plethora of individual citizens.
The business community is pushing for all sides to come together to forge a path out of the current mire. Some sectors of the economy are already suffering from the prolonged confrontations.
New elections are scheduled to occur on Feb. Whether or not they take place on that date is one of the key current pressure and resistance points in the confrontation between the government and the protesters.
The obvious questions are “So what?” and “Okay. Now what?” Further questions are:
– What are the mutually acceptable compromise solutions and where do they come from?
– When and how and by whom will the solutions be implemented?
BP: In BP’s view, a negotiated outcome is the preferred option. However, just look at what has taken place. Eventually, after opposition to the Amnesty Bill became so strong, Yingluck signalled the government would accept if the Senate rejected the Bill which the Senate did with pro-government Senators also voting against the Bill. Then, as protests continued in early December, Yingluck offered the dissolution option (which the protesters rejected) and a referendum option as well (which they also rejected). Back then Abhisit stated he welcomed a dissolution and it was a way of the government showing responsibility and that it does not have the intention of clinging to power. Yingluck dissolved parliament, but the Democrats refused to contest the election.
Since then we have had Suthep say that a government representative offered to postpone the election until May 4 if they stop protesting, but Suthep and the protesters have refused all government offers and refused to negotiate. Abhisit has previously indicated privately that the Democrats would participate if the rules are strengthened and regulations are issued to make the election process fairer. Abhisit has not indicated what these rules are. He has only indicated as per CNBC:
“We are not proposing the suspension of democracy,” he said. “What we are proposing is the government recognize that the Electoral Commission has said the February elections cannot be free and fair. That they step back, invite all sides, open up political space for some kind of compromise so we can move to elections that can be accepted by all sides,” he said.
BP: The EC has said the election won’t be free and fair?? They have said that it will be difficult to hold the election, but this is because of what the protesters are doing. As noted by Supalak Ganjanakhundee in today’s The Nation:
The boycott of an election or even opposing the election is nothing new in the political struggle in this country and in the world. People rising up in other countries have also boycotted or opposed elections – but only when they saw it would not be free and fair, or the ruling government had made changes in the rules to get the upper hand.
In Thailand it was to the contrary. The opposition Democrat Party, which is closely associated with the protest, made some changes in the election law in its favour when it was in power during 2008-2011. There was no serious complaint about previous elections in 2011 that brought this current government into power. Hence, there was also no point in calling for reforms in election procedures before polling. And it makes no sense to disrupt an election that the protesters’ favourite party has boycotted.
BP: Exactly. It would not be easy for the government to change the rules as they are a caretaker government – remember Abhisit said he would welcome a dissolution – but BP views that if there were some minor changes that could take place legally before the election that the government should try to compromise and implement and postpone if the Democrats agree to participate. However, it should be the Democrats who state what they want in order for them to participate? So far they haven’t. Yet, somehow it is the government who are uncompromising and intractable?