Only sincerity can end strife
Parliament, which saw a joint house-senate meeting begin yesterday, has one more day to find a solution to the political unrest.
Having been faced with a series of escalating protests, the embattled Prayut Chan-o-cha government called for the extraordinary meeting, which features a general debate without a vote, to court members' opinions on how best to quell the unrest under Section 165 of the constitution. As the House convened, the street protests carried on unabated, with anti-government demonstrators yesterday converging at Sam Yan and marching to the German embassy.
However, the government, with solid support from the Senate, and the opposition bloc remain at loggerheads over how to plot a course to a peaceful end to the situation. The opposition continues to echo the demonstrators' demand that the prime minister must resign, labelling his power as illegitimate due to the nature of the military-installed mechanisms, such as the 250-strong Senate which carried him back into the top job after last year's election. Gen Prayut has already refused to step down. The other two demands are House dissolution and reform of the monarchy.
A number of opposition MPs called for a fair probe into the allegation that pro-democracy demonstrators blocked the royal motorcade on Phitsanulok Road on Oct 14, an incident that the government indirectly cited when invoking a state of emergency soon after. They argued that it was the government itself that was prone to involving the high institution in politics in a bid to appeal to its own support base.
House speaker Chuan Leekpai repeatedly had to interrupt attempts by some politicians to delve into the extremely sensitive issue of the monarchy.
There are more than a few tough issues to tackle, and parliament needs to use the remaining time productively or else risk seeing the situation worsen in a country already beset by a deep ideological divide.
Yesterday, in an apparent attempt at compromise, Prime Minister Prayut further pushed his vision for amending the constitution, the only demand of the protesters he has so far acquiesced to. However, even this concession may not go far enough to please the pro-democracy group.
Meanwhile, Democrat leader Jurin Laksanawisit proposed setting up a joint panel comprising all factions to pursue reconciliation as a more substantial first step under the circumstances. Others threw their weight behind the idea of holding a national referendum on a number of the key issues.
Whatever happens today, the opposition is determined not to allow the government to use the two-day session as a means to whitewash its reputation.
One important demand the government must comply with is to avoid activities that deepen the divide, particularly the provocative mobilisation of royalist gatherings which serve only to increase the likelihood of violent clashes. Taya Teepsuwan, wife of education minister Nathapol, both former core leaders of the now-defunct People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) has vowed a big gathering of yellow-shirt supporters today in a counter move against pro-democracy demonstrators.
Once the special meeting wraps up later today, Prime Minister Prayut must pay heed to all the advice.
However, the biggest challenge will be bridging the divide with the pro-democracy activists and providing a platform for discussions that they believe will genuinely lead to some of the changes they are calling for.
With the clock now ticking, the prime minister must act quickly and, above all, he must act sincerely.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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