The Nation



Academics question the role of top brass in talks

Academics yesterday questioned the military-mediated meeting between Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, asking why the military should have arranged a political negotiation.

However, Thai academics never agree over the role of the military in politics. Some wanted to see it play a role, while others did not.

"The military has a role to maintain stability. Why didn't the commander tell Suthep to stop his movement?" said independent academic Assadang Panikabutr.

Another academic, Trakul Meechai, said, "The military should come out to make its role clear, but it should not stage a coup."

Chulalongkorn University political scientist Chaiyan Chaiyaporn said Yingluck should dissolve Parliament to end the conflict, as the current government no longer has legitimacy.

Veerapat Pariyawong, a Harvard-educated independent law expert, said there are other voices - not just Suthep's and the government's - in this society, and they must be heard. "I can't accept unconstitutional overthrowing of the government."

"I don't want a military coup. But if there's more loss of life, the risk is there. I don't understand why the commanders of the armed forces had to be at the meeting [between Yingluck and Suthep]," said Ekachai Chainuvati, deputy dean of the Faculty of Law at Siam University.

A dozen concerned academics and peace activists met yesterday afternoon and urged all sides to avoid hate speech and furthering the violence after at least three people were killed and dozens injured over the weekend of political unrest.

The group, calling themselves Citizens for Peace, said they wanted to make sure there's space for people who do not take sides and want peaceful resolution through mediated dialogue.

"I'm not happy that there's only the kind of language used by either protesters or the government side," said Surichai Wungaew, a retired professor of sociology at Chulalongkorn University, adding that Thai society has been reduced to supporters of each side.

Veteran peace activist and Mahidol University academic Gothom Arya said no lethal weapons should be carried by either citizens or anti-riot police.

Now that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said she's willing to either resign or dissolve the House, protesters should give breathing space to the government and both sides must hold a dialogue, the activist said.

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