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BURNING ISSUE

Many ideas, but time's running out for an accord

THE 10-POINT proposal by Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, aimed at providing a way out of the country's political deadlock, was not beyond expectations - although there were hopes he would suggest something more definite that could really end the on-going conflict. As it turned out, Abhisit is still viewed as another face of Suthep Thaugsuban, his former Democrat colleague who is now head of the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee [PDRC].

Abhisit's proposal essentially is no different from the PDRC's on three issues - resignation by the caretaker prime minister and her Cabinet, formation of an interim government to carry out reforms, and postponement of the next election.

What differs is that Abhisit's proposal sets a shorter timeframe than the PDRC's. The ruling Pheu Thai Party found Abhisit's proposal was unacceptable. Pheu Thai wanted a clear date for the next election. They questioned the practicality of Abhisit's proposal and also branded it unconstitutional.

Pheu Thai instead issued its proposal for a way out of the deadlock. Unveiled by Noppadon Pattama, a spokesman for ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra, the five-point proposal called on all political parties to contest the next election and promise reforms in their campaign.

Pheu Thai's proposal also called on a reform council to be set up after the election, a new post-election government to focus on reforms and to be in power for six to 12 months, and to hold a national referendum on reforms that required constitutional amendments.

Another proposal came from Gothom Arya, director of Mahidol University's Research Centre for Peace Building. He suggested that a joint committee of members from both Pheu Thai and Democrat parties draft a reform-council proposal containing ideas from the Reform Now Network, the PDRC, and the pro-government United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship. He said there should be a referendum on the reform-council ideas, along with the next election.

For Gothom, the proposal for an unelected, neutral prime minister was unconstitutional.

He suggested a deputy prime minister should be appointed to head the caretaker cabinet during the reform period while the prime minister took a long leave.

He asked both Abhisit and outgoing prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to get closely involved in the process of gathering reform ideas from their political parties. Judging from the proposals offered above, there is no lack of ideas for ways out for our country, although some proposed solutions may be more "democratic" or more practical than others.

What is important is that the conflicting parties should admit that nobody could take all or lose nothing in a negotiation. To allow the country to move forward, they should give priority to the country's benefit and reach an accord as soon as possible.

Time is running out.


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