Both sides have good reasons to negotiate now

your say February 10, 2014 00:00

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Now is an excellent time for negotiations to bring social reconciliation without violence.

Thaksin should negotiate because his chickens are coming home to roost. The amnesty bill showed clearly that he values his money more than justice for the 92 killed – most of them red shirts – during the 2011 conflict. 
One million farmers taken in by his rice plan are demonstrating because they haven’t been paid, and their numbers are growing. Yingluck can’t pay them and not even KTB will bail her out of her mess. “China” pulled out of an alleged government-to-government rice deal at the first sign of an inquiry. 
The protesters have shown far more staying power, popular support and nuisance ability than first thought. The red shirts aren’t stupid, as shown by the relatively low election turnout this month, and the National Anti-Corruption Commission’s findings on the rice plan are due out shortly. Thaksin’s star is clearly waning. 
Suthep should come to the table because the protests have done immense damage to the economy, in particular hurting the livelihoods of the SMEs and millions of middle- and lower-income groups that depend on our domestic consumption, exports and tourist industry. 
Before the protests, we were in for 2014 GDP growth of 4-plus per cent. We’ll be lucky to make 2 per cent if the demonstrations end tomorrow – which they won’t. Thailand is no longer the darling of foreign investors. Indonesia surpassed us to become one of the world’s top foreign direct investment destinations in 2009, and hasn’t looked back. Vietnam and the Philippines are just as attractive as we are, and politically more stable. We need badly to get back on track. 
Both sides now have valid reasons for wanting to dialogue in good faith and should strike a deal while the iron is hot.
Burin Kantabutra

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