Thai PM thanks all sides for ensuring peaceful demonstrations, reiterates readiness to listen to protesters' views
On 21 March 2010, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand Abhisit Vejjajiva commented on a number of issues pertaining to the demonstrations by the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) during his weekly Sunday morning television programme as well as during his joint press conference with the government coalition partners later in the afternoon.
Prime Minister Abhisit expressed his appreciation to all sides for ensuring that the demonstrations remained peaceful and orderly. He thanked the demonstrators for their peaceful intent, the officials for their dedication and patience, and the people of Bangkok, regardless of their political conviction, for their cooperation and understanding. At the same time, he expressed concern about efforts by certain groups to instigate disturbances through the small explosions outside various government offices and a military base.
Noting that while he had avoided taking any action that would risk confrontation all through last week, this situation should not be prolonged much further. As he intends to bring the situation back to normalcy during the coming week, he asked the demonstrators to respect the constitutional boundaries regarding peaceful demonstrations. The Prime Minister also expressed concern over the messages used by protest leaders. While it is acceptable to talk about concepts such as legitimacy, democratic principles, or policy implementation, or to criticise the prime minister himself, it is not appropriate to provoke hatred by making inaccurate and false accusations based on misinformation. He cited as examples the continued use of a fabricated audio clip and the invocation of certain issues, such as a “class struggle”, which are untrue and could only escalate the conflict and hatred among the people which is not to anyone's interest.
With regard to prospects for dialogue with protest leaders, Prime Minister Abhisit reiterated his stance that he has no problem with engaging in dialogue with protest leaders, saying that all coalition parties agreed with the process of using Senators or the National Human Rights Commission as facilitators in arranging for dialogue with the demonstrators. The Prime Minister also acknowledged the demonstrators’ demand for dissolution of the House of Representatives and to call new elections, adding that he is open to new elections but he also has his own ideas about factors surrounding such an action that could benefit the Thai people the most. He noted that, by making such demand a pre-condition, it seems that the protest leaders are not clear whether the dissolution of the House is their final demand.
Prime Minister Abhisit also added that he has no problem with engaging in a dialogue with protest leaders himself, but representatives from both sides should meet to discuss the framework of such a dialogue first, which in his view could include the issue of when to dissolve the House. That is what the meeting on 22 March would try to accomplish. Presently, the UDD would be represented by Dr. Weng Tojiranond and Mr. Charan Dithaphichai while the Government side may be led by Education Minister Chinnaworn Boonyakiat and Secretary-General to the Prime Minister Korbsak Sabhavasu.
Asked about the legitimacy issue of the Government mentioned by some foreign media, Prime Minister Abhisit said that his Government assumed office in accordance with the Constitution and that if the Government was in fact a result of coup d’état and was undemocratic, he would not have been able to perform his duty in a number of international fora over the past 15 months. In addition, to say that this government came to power with the backing of the military would be a slight to members of the House of Representatives who decided to support it.
Prime Minister Abhisit also observed that despite the use of the Internal Security Act in Thailand, if a similar protest took place in other countries like the United Kingdom, it would be deemed a violation of the Public Order Act – as they involved blockade of government premises or trespassing on private properties. In most countries, the protestors would also be required to inform the authorities of the exact route of the demonstrations. Besides, even whiles the Emergency Decree was declared last April, no death resulted from officials' operations.
Regarding the convening of Cabinet and Parliamentary meetings next week, Prime Minister Abhisit, while noting that the Government has had to change the location of work to avoid confrontation over the past week, reaffirmed that the meetings would continue as usual, with the venues to be determined by the officials concerned. He stated that the Government would follow the Central Administrative Court’s ruling on 9 October 2008 which allows the authority to disperse demonstrators blockading government building in accordance with international standards. However, the Government would make sure all demonstrators are aware and understand the acceptable parameters of their actions.
Asked about what he would say to Mr. Thaksin, Prime Minister Abhisit said that he would urge the former prime minister to think of Thailand and its peoples as a whole and what would be best for them and to accept the rule of law and the courts’ rulings. He further noted that Thai society is a forgiving society and if the former prime minister could do these things, the country would be able to move forward.
Prime Minister Abhisit also assured the public that the ongoing demonstrations had not distracted the Government from other endeavours which has been progressing normally. This included addressing difficulties facing the public, such as the drought and the impact of the demonstrations on the economy, especially regarding the tourism industry.
As for the possible extension of the use of the Internal Security Act (ISA) beyond the period earlier approved by the Cabinet, which ends on 23 March 2010, the Prime Minister has assigned Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban to propose details concerning the areas and duration, saying that such an extension should not be for a prolonged period of time. The implementation of the ISA would cease when the situation returns to normal.
( Updated on 22 March 2010 from the information provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand)