Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thai Govt, PM not looking at the big picture

The fact that the red-shirted protest is being labelled by the government as an anti-monarchy movement is an indicator that the ruling Democrat Party and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva merely want to play a political game to disperse the protesters.

They are not, however, looking at the whole picture with a view to solving the country's crisis.

The government is consistently campaigning on the monarchy issue against the anti-government group, and has urged coalition parties as well as provincial governors to help spread the word across the country.

Abhisit is under pressure from all directions to take tougher action to end the red-shirts' protest in the capital, a protest which has gone on since March 12 to the drastic detriment of the economy as well as people's lives.

The internal pressure within the Democrats is no less than that being faced from outside the party. Chen Thaugsuban, a brother of Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, said in a party meeting this week that people in his constituency in Surat Thani province were urging Abhisit to do something concrete, otherwise he should step down and allow someone else to do the job.

Politicians in the Democrat Party are not, however, looking at the big picture and just want the prime minister to get rid of the red-shirt protesters. The party rejected a proposal from coalition partners Bhum Jai Thai and Chart Thai Pattana to amend the Constitution to adjust the electoral system. The Democrats benefit from the current system and resist any idea for changing it.

Democrat MPs and key members of the party want the premier to take a hard-line stance to maintain order in the country. They blame Abhisit for paying less attention to the party line than associating only with the "ice-cream gang" of Sirichok Sopha, Satit Wongnongtaey and Korn Chatikavanij. "If Abhisit cannot handle the situation, the party will lose in the next election," a party member said.

However, many Democrat members are not taking a realistic stance and have acted selfishly for the party's benefit and have never given others a chance. They rejected the proposal to amend the Constitution and threw away an offer to resume political talks with the red shirts. They understand that the government has the upper hand and expects to win the struggle against the protesters simply through the use of tear gas and guns.

Despite associating only with the ice-cream gang, Abhisit is no different from other members of the party. He is treating the situation as a game that he will likely eventually win. He endorsed the release early this week by the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation of the anti-monarchy network's plans, in order to smear many people - including academics with no connection to the red shirts. The tactic is aimed at painting the red-shirt group as a national security threat, rather than a normal political movement.

The government will not negotiate with them and says it can use force to get rid of the threat to the monarchy and national security. "The situation has gone far beyond negotiation," Abhisit said.
His thinking is no different from what other members of his party want. He has in mind a plan to use force to end the game, but has no plan to solve the broader problems facing the country. By doing so, the government might be able to remove the red shirts from the business and tourist centre of Rajprasong, but it will not put a permanent end to the movement.

The government cannot anticipate how big the red-shirt movement is, or how big it will grow. As long as the red shirts' problems remain and their demands are not met, the movement will be reborn and come back to challenge the government again in no time at all. The Nation, Bangkok

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