Act to avert bloodshed
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Act to avert bloodshed

As the country plunges into a deep divide, with the possibility of violent confrontations, the Prayut Chan-o-cha government cannot remain idle and must take action to avert what could become a national crisis.

On one side are pro-democracy groups including student activists who over the past few weeks have effectively rattled the state with three demands, ie a charter rewrite, a House dissolution and ending the intimidation of political activists. They later stepped up their demands to include the reform of the monarchy, apparently picking up the idea from civic rights lawyer Arnon Nampa who raised the issue in a speech during a rally near Democracy Monument on Aug 3.

Later in the week, on Aug 7 police arrested the lawyer and a political activist on charges of sedition, a serious offence that is punishable by up to seven years in jail, as well as breaching the emergency decree and other offences. On the other side are ultra right-wing royalists and leading military elements who, as political observers see it, are very likely to respond ruthlessly.

The two came close to confrontation on Monday when they turned up near parliament to voice their opposing stances. But police and security officers kept them apart.

In fact, the move by pro-democracy students this week came as a result of their anger over the Aug 7 arrest of Mr Arnon and Mr Panupong, despite the two being released on bail. They saw the sedition charge as disproportionate, with the aim of muzzling their movement. Even though the prime minister eventually showed his openness to charter amendment -- suggesting a forum where the government and pro-democracy groups could exchange political ideas -- there has been no concrete action on the part of the administration.

The pro-democracy groups' anger exploded into a major rally on Sunday, at a city skywalk and on Monday, at Thammasat University's Rangsit campus where the students came out with a 10-point list of demands for the reform of the monarchy. Such open demands are unprecedented and have stunned even some of the protesters while it seems highly likely that the ultra-royalists will respond harshly.

Thammasat University and vice rector Prinya Thaewanarumitkul issued an apology for Monday's events and insisted protesters who went beyond the pale would have to take responsibility and must cooperate with the authorities.

Yesterday, Gen Prayut said he "was concerned" with Monday's protest at Thammasat, yet did not elaborate. It's time he takes action and sets the stage for a resolution of the conflict. No factions should be allowed to incite violence or hatred. He and the government must take precautions against third parties as no one should be allowed to use this opportunity to cause trouble.

Senator Wanchai Sornsiri is among a group of senators who think parliament should play a greater role in curbing the ongoing divide in the country. They have urged the prime minister to resort to Section 165, convening a meeting between the Senate and House of Representatives, so they can together discuss ways to avert a crisis. Previously, the House agreed to provide a channel for student activists to air their grievances.

All parties concerned should listen and throw their support behind this idea so that it is translated into action, saving the country from a potentially bloody confrontation.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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