Reds, executives back unity but differ on timing of reform

Reds, executives back unity but differ on timing of reform

Seven private-sector organisations and red shirts say they share a desire for social unity but still differ on the need for reform.

United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship chairwoman Tida Tawornseth, flanked by UDD co-leaders, meet business groups to discuss possible solutions to the political crisis, at Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre yesterday. PAWAT LAOPAISARNTAKSIN

The private sector groups agreed with the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leader Tida Tawornseth when they met for the first time yesterday that there should be no more social division.

Political conflict also should not take a violent turn, said Thai Chamber of Commerce chairman Issara Vongkusolkij, who was present.

The organisations agreed last week national reform should take place before the next election. A source said that at yesterday's meeting the private sector groups did not specify when the reforms should take place.

Anti-government protesters have vowed to fight to put the next election on hold until reform has been carried out. The red shirts, who support the government, argue the election should be held straight away.

Mrs Tida said elections were about preserving the people's rights and equality in choosing their leaders. "You may not like the red shirts or [ousted premier] Thaksin Shinawatra. But you need to maintain the system of elections," she said.

Ms Tida slammed the protesters for disregarding the laws and elections. The protesters were engineering a dictatorship by the minority.

Federation of Thai Industries chairman Phayungsak Chartsuthipol said business people hope to see a breakthrough in politics that benefits everyone.

The economy is being hurt by the conflict. "We hope there will be no confrontation. [The problem] should be resolved through negotiations," said Mr Issara. The business groups are worried that if the political stalemate persists, economic growth could drop from 5% to 3% next year. Many foreign investors want to invest in a country which follows the rule of law and regard this as an important issue, Mr Phayungsak said.

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