Dems share unrest blame, says Abhisit

Dems share unrest blame, says Abhisit

Calls for neutral leader to spearhead reform

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has accepted that he and his party share the blame for the country's political failings, calling for a neutral figure to spearhead the process of reform.

Abhisit: Thais stuck in political stalemate

Mr Abhisit said the country is now seen by the world as being trapped in a never-ending stalemate, adding that Thais have been through the cycle of "failed government" for too long.

He said the recent street protests in Bangkok are an irrefutable demonstration that people believe they deserve a better system.

''As the leader of the Democrat Party, I must share the blame for the failed politics, but at the same time I cannot shy away from my responsibilities to help lead the country from the current stalemate,'' Mr Abhisit said.

''I urge all political leaders including the current [caretaker] prime minister and all political parties to do likewise. We must never forget that our claim to be 'by the people and for the people' means our first duty is to serve Thais. We have a moral duty to do the right thing.''

The former prime minister called on all parties to overcome their differences to agree on some key principles to preserve democracy, namely that there be no coups and all violence must be condemned and stopped.

For the country to move ahead, he said, protesters' grievances need to be understood.

Mr Abhisit said a plan for the country's future should be worked out to bring an end to the conflict. The plan should include a return to free and fair elections, accepted by all sides, and a clear, credible commitment to irreversible and comprehensive reforms.

The Democrat leader also sought to distance his party from anti-government street protests led by the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), insisting the protest is not a Democrat Party demonstration.

Mr Abhisit pointed to a recent Asia Foundation survey which found that two-thirds of PDRC protesters said they had never participated in political demonstrations before.

The Democrats, however, agree with protesters' right to protest and their right to reform, he said.

''We may not agree with their proposed means to achieve reform and we do not wish to see democracy suspended. But we wholeheartedly agree with the need for comprehensive reform to rid the system of corruption and abuses,'' he said.

Yet reforms cannot begin with this government’s plan to continue with elections, Mr Abhisit said. A poll re-run will take months to complete and may lead to further violence and ultimately fail to meet a quorum in parliament, he added.

''Likewise, we need to face the reality that only someone credible and accepted by all sides can lead the reform process and manage the short transition to new elections in which everyone participates. That someone is clearly not the current government, the protest leaders nor the Democrat Party,'' the Democrat leader noted.

"The country cannot afford to lose more time. Every day the stalemate continues is a lost opportunity for the economy, the country and the people. It’s time to chart an alternative course," he said.

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