The Nation



Foreign diplomats snub invite to meet with PDRC

Only two diplomats of the 40 embassies invited to visit leaders of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) Wednesday afternoon, turned up for the visit, it has been revealed.

One of only six invited guests to actually turn up, Matthew Wheeler, a Southeast Asian analyst for International Crisis Group (ICG), said Suthep was in no mood for a political compromise.

"I didn't sense any mood for compromise from Suthep and others," said Wheeler, who spent two hours in an air-conditioned tent at Democracy Monument, discussing the political situation with Suthep and other PDRC leaders. Three other NGO representatives, along with two diplomats from the Russian Embassy, and another - possibly from the Swiss Embassy - also joined the discussions.

Wheeler said there was strong emphasis on the need to stamp out vote buying in the discourse, as well as allegations that the electoral system was "so corrupt as to be illegitimate".

Wheeler described the meeting as polite with Suthep speaking in Thai through an interpreter. He was joined by other leaders, including academic and TV host Seri Wongmontha. During the meeting, Wheeler pointed out to Suthep that even the opposition Democrat Party, in which Suthep was a former senior executive, did not protest against the 2010 election, but his remarks fell on deaf ears.

Wheeler also expressed his concerns to Suthep and other PDRC leaders about the idea of creating a "people's council" as it had not taken into consideration the rights of other voters. He warned that this could lead to even greater political conflict.

Suthep defended the PDRC position, stressing that extreme times required "extreme measures".

Wheeler acknowledged that he wasn't originally invited, but contacted the PDRC and the invitation was extended to him. "They might be grateful for a 'warm body'," Wheeler told The Nation after he realised that he was one of only six people to turn up.

Nothing was said about the very low number of diplomats who showed up, and Wheeler said neither of the two diplomats who attended asked any questions.

After the meeting, Wheeler accompanied Suthep as he headed for the rally stage at Democracy Monument. He was invited to go up on stage, but refused, saying that he believed one of the PDRC leaders later wrongly introduced him as a diplomat to the crowds, who then clapped and cheered.

Besides Wheeler and two foreign diplomats, the invitees included representatives from the International Red Cross, Human Rights Watch and one European NGO.

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