Hope for end to deadlock
A special joint House-Senate meeting that was wrapped up on Wednesday gave some hope that the country's political deadlock might be solved through democratic and parliamentary means.
During the two-day meeting, which ended on Wednesday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha gave a clear signal to go ahead with charter amendments, one of the three demands made by the pro-democracy movement. There were suggestions about a referendum as a solution.
The Democrat Party proposed a reconciliation panel to be set up under House Speaker Chuan Leekpai. The proposal received a positive response from the Pheu Thai Party.
While more must be done, the special session has, to a certain extent, eased tensions, even though all the demands by demonstrators have not been met, especially the demand for the premier's resignation. Gen Prayut affirmed his decision to stay on because he said the country faced a crisis.
He said his resignation "would result in a legal hassle". He also ruled out monarchy reform which he said "would hurt the majority of Thais".
While Gen Prayut and the coalition have softened their stances, they still used provocative slurs that could have sullied the atmosphere, particularly accusations by Gen Prayut that the demonstrators are backed by a foreign power, and that a mastermind is pulling the strings behind the rallies. He has not recognised that today's conflicts stem from the 2014 coup that brought the country under authoritarian rule, or that society has become more open, with young people nurturing strong aspirations for democracy. If the government recognised this, it could tackle the root cause of the problem.
Even though there may seem to be light at the end of the tunnel, confrontations will continue as both sides, the pro-monarchy and anti-dictatorship movements, seem determined to pursue their staunch campaigns.
Under such circumstances, Gen Prayut must stick to the charter rewrite time frame to convince the anti-dictatorship movement that he is sincere, making sure that when parliament opens on Nov 1, the rewrite process for the charter will kick off, with the debate on the six drafts proposed by the ruling coalition and the opposition parties. In fact, the country may have avoided today's strife had he and the government not thwarted the charter amendment process back in September.
More importantly, the prime minister should know a step backward by the government is not enough. It needs at least two or more steps if it really wants to make peace with the demonstrators. While the government has pledged to go ahead with the charter rewrite process, it has still failed to make its stance clear on the role of the Senate in accordance with the contentious Section 272. The "switch-off" of the Senate, as mentioned in the opposition's draft, is the key toward tension de-escalation that must be adopted.
At the same time, the government must do what it can to ensure that the proposed reconciliation committee, as recommended by the Democrat Party, will be formed, with all parties pitching in so that conflicts can be solved in a peaceful way. All the issues must be tabled for negotiation.
Some people may question if such a committee will be helpful. This is because Thailand has had so many panels before and some were not accepted by the parties in conflict due to the fact they existed only to whitewash the state. This must not happen. All must lend a hand so the panel functions properly and brings peace back to society.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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