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I can't broker talks: Prem

Privy council chief rules out mediation role; says political rivals won't listen to him

THAI POLITICS has reached such an unbreakable stalemate that even a highly charismatic senior figure like Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda admits he would not be able to mediate the dispute, as the conflicting parties would not listen to him.

Calls by many groups in the country to have both sides negotiate to bring an end to the crisis, which is damaging the economy and the country's development opportunities, do not seem likely to pave the way for a compromise soon.

Asked if the chief adviser to His Majesty the King could make the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and the government sit together for talks, Prem replied: "Do you think they will listen to me?

"I have never heard about this [a proposal to have him as a mediator] before, but only learned of this from you reporters," said Prem, after chairing a ceremony at the Army Club where he also made a speech calling for unity among Thai people.

Asked if he could make Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban enter negotiations because of his stature and the respect he commands, as they don't seem inclined to hold talks, Prem said: "I am no exception."

The government and the PDRC are at odds on how to achieve their ends. The former wants to push ahead with an election as it believes Yingluck and her Pheu Thai Party will be returned to the power, while the protesters want the judicial branch to bring her down and install an unelected government.

Asked about the possibility of him being a non-elected prime minister to oversee the much-anticipated political reform, Prem replied with only a smile.

Prem was heard telling National Police chief Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew: "Be patient, and keep doing your job."

Noppadon Pattama, legal adviser to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, yesterday proposed the immediate holding of a general election in which all parties could propose reforms they seek as election promises, before a reform assembly is set up to seek councillors from all professions. This assembly would end after a term lasting six months to a year. A constitutional amendment would be made after a referendum approved it.

Meanwhile, Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut called on the public to ignore the ruling party, which he accused of supporting people who were against the monarchy, devising corruption-prone policies and demonising independent institutions, while rejecting rulings by the Constitutional Court. He praised civil servants at certain ministries who had welcomed visits by the PDRC.

Yingluck defended herself against an allegation that she and her government were not accepting the legitimacy of the National Anti-Corruption Commission's rulings against her, saying she was only raising queries about its rulings and making her observations on them.

Meanwhile, as tensions continued, the Centre for Administration of Peace and Order issued a warning against public gatherings by both sides, fearing possible violence during the Songkran holiday break, despite the PDRC announcement that it would not organise any marches or rallies during the five-day break.

In a campaign to enlist more civil servants on its side, the PDRC visited an irrigation office in Pak Kret district of Nonthaburi yesterday and reportedly got a warm welcome from its leadership and staff.


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