Eight recommendations for a violence-free Thailand

On the bright side, the ongoing colour-coded politics reflect the strong political awareness of the Thai public. The number of politically active Thais, whether they are affiliated with the red-shirt, yellow-shirt, multi-coloured or no-coloured factions, must reach several million.

This massive number marks a political turning point for the country. This could lead to a violent crisis, or it could lead to peace. Needless to say, if we continue to fuel the politics of hatred, violence is inevitable.

The red-shirt network has a strong stance against a coup d'etat being launched. If there is a coup, bloodshed is a likely consequence. The yellow shirts, meanwhile, are against corruption and disrespect for the monarchy. To accuse someone of thinking about abolishing the monarchy is a very serious accusation. If not defused in time, the conflicts over different views on the monarchy will eventually land the country with major bloodshed.

We should learn from history. The civil war in America in 1862 caused more than 600,000 deaths, in Indonesia, 500,000 were killed during the fight against communism in 1965. In Sri Lanka, several thousand people died in the Sinhalese-Tamil conflicts which stretched over 25 years. What will Thailand become if this colour-coded conflict drags on for another 25 years? Here are my eight recommendations to avoid such violence.

Every party must have sati _ be mindful of their own actions in order to avoid any acts that may lead to violence.

To do so, it must base its work on integrity, knowledge, rationality and truth. Parliamentarians must adhere to "right speech" (a Buddhist principle requiring one to speak only what is truthful, kind, timely and beneficial). Politicians must act in a civilised manner in parliament.

Protests against the government must be peaceful, and the demonstrators must come up with policy recommendations. In turn, the government should be open to protesters' ideas and respond positively to constructive demands whenever possible. For any demands that cannot be immediately addressed, the government should set up a committee to study and find possible ways to make them happen.

Every party should be aware that they must help build the country's future together rather than being trapped in political conflicts. If we get stuck in the past, we cannot move on. Worse, we risk falling into a deep pit of crisis.

In fact, Thailand is rich in many ways. We have abundant natural resources, plus other forms of wealth _ cultural, social, religious and intellectual.

We should start anew and look to the the future. If we stop quarrelling and join hands to do good for the country there will be more goodwill among us.

A livable country is one where justice prevails and the economic gap is minimal. We must promote social justice and reduce disparities.

All sides should play a part in making social justice a reality. Two things can be done to make this happen: First, decentralise. Give more management power to the locals, communities, and provinces. Second, bring about policies that foster social justice such as fair natural resources management.

The red shirts, yellow shirts, and academia can complement one another in pursuing those two goals. The red shirts' anti-coup stance is commendable. They can also empower the people so local communities and provinces can manage their own affairs.

Self-management means being in charge of the communities' own integrated development which covers interconnected areas, namely economics, mind, society, culture, environment, health, education and democracy. Self-managed communities are strong communities. A coup d'etat is not possible when power has already been decentralised to be in the people's hands.

Also, the yellow shirts and academia should support self management for local communities by helping them to develop policies to effect social justice such as in fair natural resources allocations. This is not an easy task, but we can do it if we use our existing social and intellectual strengths.

The social forces resulting from political decentralisation will be the main drivers for social justice policies.

If we use our sati to map out the directions and frameworks of our country's future, the bureaucracy and army will have to play by the rules.

In order to prevent the country from turning into a failed state, the bureaucracy must have integrity, knowledge, independence and efficiency. The bureaucracy must be instrumental to effect social justice and bridge disparity.

We need good information and communication systems to achieve the goals outlined above. It is not impossible for Thailand to avoid political crises and to attain a secure future. It can happen only when all parties adopt the same goal in building the country's future together.

Prof Dr Prawase Wasi is a 1981 Ramon Magsagsay Award laureate. He is a civil society leader and advocate of political reform.

About the author

Writer: Prawase Wasi