The Nation


burning issue

It's time for everyone to just sit down and talk

On Monday morning, caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced the dissolution of the House of Representatives just as thousands of protesters and their supporters were preparing to march to Government House. They were marching to press for the setting up of a "People's Council" that could help reform the country's politics.

The dissolution of the House came as expected. A key government figure had expected Yingluck to dissolve the House soon after His Majesty's birthday on December 5, due mainly to the increased pressure and some "extreme demands" from the protest leaders.

The Yingluck government, which came to power on August 2011, has undergone much pressure and criticism. Belief that it was massively influenced by Yingluck's brother - former PM Thaksin Shinawatra - and that he was behind the government-backed blanket amnesty bill led to widespread public outrage against the so-called "Thaksin regime".

In addition to the controversial bill, this administration has also been slammed for its moves to amend the Constitution and introducing questionable projects, such as the loss-making rice-pledging scheme, the Bt350-billion water-management and flood-prevention plan and the Bt2-trillion loan to fund transport infrastructure projects.

Obviously, the government and the ruling Pheu Thai Party only have themselves to blame for what has happened. For starters, they let Thaksin have too much influence in the administration, reviving the fear of a "Thaksin regime" and giving his enemies a chance to use this "ghost" to mobilise public support against the government.

Yingluck has tried to ease the political pressure by offering to have a dialogue with the protest leaders and the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), and by agreeing to the growing calls for political reform.

Meanwhile, key figures in the ruling Pheu Thai Party continue to be confident of strong support from the red-shirt movement, despite the mounting pressure. The ruling coalition is also relying on the backing it is getting from several groups and academics calling for the future to take a "democratic course" and for the elections to be held on February 2 as scheduled.

At the moment, nobody really knows what this ongoing confrontation will lead to. Suthep Thaugsuban and his PDRC want Yingluck and her Cabinet to resign en masse so a neutral interim government can be put in place and a People's Council set up. Yingluck and her government have turned down this demand and are instead suggesting that a forum with all those involved be held in order to find a solution for the country. She is also insisting that the elections be held on February 2 as planned. The PDRC, however, is ignoring her proposals.

Hence, it appears as if both sides are standing firm on their original stance and a dialogue seems to be quite out of question for now.

Let's hope that both ruling politicians and protest leaders will finally step back and listen to each other. However, it is time they realised that it is in Thailand's best interest if they all sat down and started talking to each other.

Of course, a mediator would be needed to keep things calm.

Like an ancient treatise on the Art of War says, the best way to fight is not to fight at all.

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