Save lives, set a date, general

Save lives, set a date, general

The general announced to the world that the military coup was staged to save the capital and the nation from increasing violence and anarchy. In essence, it was to save lives.

His priority is to save lives.   

On Sunday, standing in front of Amarin Plaza, observing anti-coup protestors and soldiers squaring off, I saw the warning light: Danger Ahead. 

The one force actually contesting the general’s authority at the moment is the anti-coup protests around the capital. They may be few in numbers right now, but tension is high. 

A military policeman fends off a protester during a demonstration against the coup at Victory Monument on May 28, 2014 (EPA photo)

Under the scorching sun and blasting heat, the mood was ugly in front of Amarin Plaza. The protestors were angry. They threw curses and pointed fingers relentlessly. 

The soldiers stood fast, stoic, sweating heavily in full gear. 

I arrived as an ambulance was driving off, apparently carrying one soldier who collapsed from heat exhaustion under the burden of all his equipment. The protesters cheered and jeered the ambulance. 

There were minor scuffles, but fortunately, there was a line of cooler-headed protesters who took on the role of peacekeepers. Blocking others from rushing at the line of soldiers, urging their comrades to stay calm.

They were adamant that this should be a peaceful protest. In the late afternoon, army reinforcements arrived and the crowd was dispersed peacefully. 

But here’s the worry, as the protests increase in size and frequency, the emotional anger multiplied by the heat, what if those cooler-heads can no longer prevail, or what if a soldier lose his cool? 

We have seen shoving matches between soldiers and protesters elsewhere, especially when arrests are made. For the moment, both sides are showing restraint. 

But what if, under the pressure, the heat and the anger, a rock is thrown, a baton wielded and perhaps a finger pulls the trigger? A protest could turn into a riot. That could trigger a chain of reactions leading to  full-blown violence. 

Does anyone want this? Yes, unfortunately there are people willing to see dead bodies in the streets in order to satiate their hatred and meet their political agenda. 

But here I would like to urge both soldiers and protesters to proceed with caution. All it may take is a rock thrown, a baton wielded or a finger that pulls the trigger. Don’t go there. 

In the big picture, there should have been an election. Instead, we had mob rule. Now we have a coup. Reality is what it is. But to prevent reality from turning up more and more casualties, the general might take heed.  

The best way out of this tangled mess is for the general to as soon as possible announce the election date. Let the country know that Thailand will return to democratic elections. 

There has to be light at the end of the tunnel. 

Prevent violence by ensuring that soldiers maintain discipline. Pacify the anger that could lead to loss of lives by announcing the election date as soon as possible.  

Discipline. Restraint. Peace. Return to elections. 

Save lives. 

Voranai Vanijaka

Bangkok Post columnist

Voranai Vanijaka is a columnist, Bangkok Post.

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