Abhisit floats 'minor reforms'

national April 28, 2014 00:00


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Plan calls for poll restrictions before an election, to be followed by larger moves

FIVE DAYS after launching a proposal to seek talks with all stakeholders in the political stand-off, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva appeared hopeful yesterday that his proposal to end the six-month-long crisis would succeed. 
“It is a difficult task to make all people in the conflict accept [my proposal]. But it would be the last chance for me to try for the sake of the country. I do it with hope [of achievement],” the Democrat leader said in an exclusive interview with Nation Group yesterday.
His idea was generally welcomed by people involved in the impasse, including caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. 
“It will be worrying if the country is still in a stalemate once I have recovered [from a recent injury], because I foresee more tense conflicts ahead in the next two weeks,” he said. 
Abhisit still wears a sling to accommodate a soft cast attached to his right shoulder, which he broke in an accident in late March. A metal rod that was installed internally to support the broken bone became dislocated after he overdid his physical therapy. 
A doctor will remove the metal rod in the next two or three months, earlier than originally scheduled. 
Abhisit continues to keep his proposal details secret, but insists it abides by the Constitution. Although it was his party that boycotted the February 2 election, which was eventually nullified, he did not reject the poll being held. 
“Reform has to begin before an election, but it [the results of the reform] would not be complete before the election, because the process would take a long time,” he said.
He stressed the importance of making the election fair, acceptable and peaceful.
“I admit that eventually we have to cast a ballot but I don’t agree with the saying that an election is the only answer. You can see in several foreign countries that it [an election] is not,” he said.
He noted that his proposal would make sure that those who wanted to see reform would get what they wanted, and those who wanted an election would see a peaceful election as well. 
He hinted that there would be a “minor” reform before any election. 
For example, the Election Commission (EC) needed to make the election clean and fair and issue a regulation to limit or ban excessive populist policies, as they would lead to irresponsible election campaigning.
At the same time, voters needed to be convinced that if they went to the poll it would be one of the fairest, and they would see real reform after it. 
“If all stakeholders agree with my proposal we need to be able to convince people that the reform will eventually take place and [the promise] cannot be broken,” he said, adding that no negotiation on any criminal case is in his proposal. 
The EC will meet with the caretaker government on April 30 and the poll agency said it would propose July 20 as an election date. Abhisit said if the date was set on that day, there would not be enough time to implement his proposal.
“My proposal would take more time than that,” he said.
If Yingluck welcomed his proposal, she should not set the election date, but should listen to and consider his proposal first, he said.
The hardest part now was that the two political camps were extremely divided. Moreover, both camps thought they could eventually win what they’d been fighting for. 
“I’m realistic. I don’t think everybody will win everything he or she wants,” he said. 
He clarified that he does not see his role as a mediator, facilitator, broker, or non-partisan. He said his initiative came from his own decision.
“I am just proposing a realistic solution. I’m not above the conflict and should not have played this role. But I want to ask all of you, is there anyone who is not a part of the conflict?” he said.
If there was no progress by this week he would end his role, he said.
Asked if his party members would contest the next election, he said if others accepted his proposal his party’s members should accept it too. 
Abhisit planned to meet with the main rivals, Yingluck and People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) leader Suthep Thaugsuban, later. Abhisit is meeting with Armed Forces Supreme Commander General Tanasak Patima-pragorn today and the EC tomorrow. 
He was ready to talk to ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra if his sister Yingluck was not able to make her own decision as head of the government. But he personally had no desire to talk with the fugitive ex-premier.
He said Suthep had neither seen nor known about his proposal. He insisted his proposal would be the answer for the reform that Suthep and the PDRC wanted, but his means and the PDRC’s methods, would be different.
He also denied his proposal was related to the proposal by the Man of State group, which wants Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda to seek a royal command to help end the political crisis.


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