Sonthi predicts smaller rallies

Mass political rallies similar to those staged by the Pitak Siam group are unlikely to take place in the near future, leader of the Matubhum Party Sonthi Boonyaratglin said yesterday.

The decisive factors leading to political rallies are financial support, shared ideologies bringing protesters together and the charisma and leadership skills of rally leaders, he told a seminar organised by the Election Commission.

He did not believe political rallies like those of the Pitak Siam group would take place again anytime soon because the key factors were lacking at the moment. There might only be small rallies from time to time, he said.

On democracy in Thailand, Gen Sonthi said the country has had 28 prime ministers, but while each focused primarily on the economy and elections, little effort had been made to develop democracy.

He said Thais vote for politicians based on the patronage system.

Gen Sonthi, the leader of the Sept 19, 2006 coup that toppled the Thaksin Shinawatra government, said that while the country's economy still has good prospects, the road to democracy remains bumpy, with divisions in society a major obstacle.

He said demonstrations are normal in the democratic system, but they often have ulterior motives and harbour ill intentions to destroy political rivals.

He did not rule out the possibility of protests in the future which could eventually lead to military coups.

"But if politics functions well, the people and the military should not do anything because they know it will affect the country," Gen Sonthi said.

Coordinator of the Green Politics group Suriyasai Katasila told the seminar that colour-coded political divisions in the country may abate next year because of external factors.

He said the US and China are looking to pressure Thailand on several fronts and this will lead to a surge of patriotism.

People should put aside their political differences and unite to protect the country's national interests, while the red-yellow polarisation will soon become irrelevant in the global context, Mr Suriyasai said.

Mr Suriyasai agreed it was impossible to predict if there would never be a military coup again in the future.

He said parliament cannot provide solutions to all of the country's problems. When crises arise, people are always ready to think outside the box, he said.

"The existing conventional system is hopeless and independent organisations are interfered with," he said.

Speaking of efforts to foster national reconciliation, he said the government and the opposition should not play the leading role in national reconciliation efforts. The government should avoid pushing for the passage of the controversial reconciliation bills but set up a new committee on national reconciliation comprising people from all sectors of society, he said.

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Writer: Mongkol Bangprapa
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