The struggle between the ruling Pheu Thai Party and the opposition Democrat Party is teetering on the brink of mutual assured destruction, and only two political veterans, Thaksin Shinawatra and Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, can be game-changers.
Three related issues – reconciliation, Thaksin’s amnesty and charter change – are the roots of fractious politics. And it is clear Thaksin stands to benefit from all three issues.
It is also an open secret that Chavalit is pulling strings behind the scenes playing the role of powerbroker to mediate a deal on Thaksin’s behalf.
Chavalit engineered the transformation of coup leader Sonthi Boonyaratglin into Matubhum Party leader, culminating in the push for the reconciliation bill.
At the same time as the reconciliation debate, the government-sponsored bill on charter rewrite came up for parliamentary deliberation.
Reconciliation and charter change, if approved and implemented, will definitely rescue Thaksin from his legal wrangling.
With his future at stake, Thaksin is working hard with Pheu Thai MPs and the red shirts to ensure their legislative passage. He has also dispatched his sister Yaowapha Wongsawat and her husband Somchai as emissaries to pacify the Democrats and other opponents to an amnesty for him.
Chavalit is rooting for Thaksin because he believes the political conflict could be put behind us once amnesty is granted and fences are mended.
But the best-laid plan hatched by Thaksin and Chavalit has turned into a nightmare.
The harder the two push for an amnesty under the guise of reconciliation and charter change, the more opposition they receive from the Democrats. And the more they seek either to pacify or destroy the Democrats, the bigger the legal wrangling becomes – and threatens to engulf the opposing camps.
The most worrying trend is the ruling and opposition parties relying on rabble-rousing, which could lead to mutual destruction. The country cannot avoid suffering collateral damage if the two rival parties continue to hold rallies to incite the masses.
The yellow shirts have descended on to the streets to air their anti-government views. And the red shirts have organised a series of rallies in Bangkok and upcountry aimed at backing the government and outshining their opponents.
The Democrats have been organising rallies to justify their opposition to an amnesty for Thaksin. That has spurred Pheu Thai MPs to retaliate and threaten at coalition-backed rallies to destroy the main opposition party.
Today the House adjournment begins. The next session is set to resume in August. During recess, the rival camps are, unfortunately, gearing to fortify their respective stands on reconciliation and charter change, instead of seeking a compromise.
And with Democrat and Pheu Thai MPs opting to become rabble-rousers, the risk of the political situation spiralling out of control is increasing at an alarming rate.
Before doing something everyone will regret later, key players, particularly Thaksin, should engage in a frank and open-hearted dialogue to outline what they can, or cannot, accept on the amnesty issue.
Thaksin should step forward and outline his bottom line on an amnesty. His two-faced strategy – secret talks with Democrat MP Suthep Thaugsuban via Chavalit and open attacks via the red shirts – has proved useless.
In 2005, Thaksin refused to reason with his opponents and ended up triggering his own downfall. The 2006 coup to oust him can never be justified. But his flaunting of the majority is not acceptable either. It is high time for these differences to be resolved through negotiations.