Lacking sincerity, the two sides are engaged in a race to the bottom

national February 28, 2014 00:00

By Samudcha Hoonsara
The Nation

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Thailand, especially Bangkok, is taking on the appearance of a battlefield. Bunkers of protesters and troops as well as police checkpoints have been put up at several intersections, at key government offices and organisations, and outside private firms.

Security has been stepped up now that the sounds of gunfire and explosions are being heard almost daily, and rifts have spread to nearly every corner.
This kind of situation clearly shows that the political temperature has risen, with no indication that the rifts will be healed. Now, Thais are witnessing war-torn scenes – something they have seen only in movies – in their own homeland.
When will this crisis end? Neither the government nor the People’s Democratic Reform Committee has a clear answer, because each side insists it is right, and refuses to budge.
But if the two sides’ positions are closely considered, it can be seen that they have become exhausted, so they need to create a situation every now and then to boost support from their people. Of course, the sounds of gunfire and explosions and the scenes of casualties – which both sides have blamed on third-party groups – can be used to incite supporters to hate the other side even more.
For example, leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) incited their supporters during a rally in Nakhon Ratchasima by telling them to eliminate the people on the other side.
This kind of hate speech is unacceptable; such actions are unreasonable and uncivilised. There is a concern that such speech will incite the mass of supporters on both sides to confront each other.
It has been learned that the UDD is ready to strike back against the anti-government groups once it receives a signal and financial support from the man in exile. In the meantime, several PDRC leaders have admitted that certain groups have stepped in to protect the demonstrators if UDD militants or “men in black” storm in to attack them. As a result, the situation is very sensitive and militants on both sides – who are now hidden – will be ready to wage guerrilla warfare and cause the situation to deteriorate into a civil war.
Actually, the government is now on the defensive, because whenever it tries to strike back, the PDRC manages to launch an effective counterattack. Now, caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is in the spotlight because the National Anti-Corruption Commission is about to decide whether to indict her in the rice-pledging case.
The PDRC’s position is no better. It has run out of ideas and its proposals have faded from public attention because they cannot be carried out as long as the Constitution remains intact.
Despite the worsening conflict, members of Thai society should ponder whether United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should be dragged in to find a solution. Does Thailand – which has in the past played a role in mediating conflicts in our neighbouring countries – need a UN intervention?
Political conflicts in other countries have ended through negotiations, but negotiations in Thailand are unlikely to succeed because neither side is sincere. Instead, each side tries to abuse legal technicalities to its advantage while using “unknown forces” to intimidate opponents. 
Leaders of both sides should not simply hope that when the situation reaches its worst point, a person with charisma will step in to intervene. Since leaders of both sides have caused problems, they should try to solve them themselves. They should use lessons learned from the past to deal with the current situation.
Leaders of both sides should take into account the damage already done to the country and reconsider their own actions, and then turn to look at the other side with broad-mindedness. Then they should enter talks with reasonableness and sincerity to find a solution for the country.

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