Second Deputy Senate Speaker Peerasak Porchit sensed something unusual when he attended the second round of talks on Thursday between seven parties on how to resolve the country's political deadlock with Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha.
The military invited the political stakeholders for talks, then detained participants at the meeting when no progress was made.
Representatives from the then ruling Pheu Thai Party, from the now-deposed government, the Democrat Party, the pro-Pheu Thai United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship [UDD], the anti-Thaksin People’s Democratic Reform Committee [PDRC], Senate and the Election Commission [EC] attended the meeting.
Participants were not allowed to bring communication devices inside and were also searched for weapons with metal detectors, Peerasak told The Nation.
Once inside, the Army chief addressed the feuding parties grimly, telling them he wanted an end to the impasse within that day [Thursday].
“People cannot wait. I ask all of you to come up with a solution today,” Peerasak quoted Prayuth as saying.
After his remarks, the stakeholders made their various pitches. Democrat representative Abhisit Vejjajiva called for the then caretaker government to resign, which they refused.
With no sign of a breakthrough apparent, Prayuth asked the groups from the five political parties to hold separate meetings in small rooms.
In the first room, representatives of the UDD met with counterparts from the PDRC. In the second room, Pheu Thai debated with the Democrats. The third room housed members of the then-government. The fourth room, meanwhile, played host to a meeting of Armed Forces commanders.
The sub-meetings went on for 40 minutes, after which representatives returned to the main room. Suddenly, UDD leader Jatuporn Promphan took PDRC’s Suthep Thaugsuban by the hand to meet Prayuth.
After that, Prayuth asked then caretaker Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri, who led the government representatives at the meeting, whether the government would resign. Chaikasem told Prayuth that “as of this minute, the government will not resign”, according to a source.
“Then, as of this minute, I have decided to seize power,” the source quoted Prayuth as replying.
Prayuth then stood up and asked the senators and EC members to leave the room before soldiers detained the rest.
“I’m not shocked because I expected the military to break the deadlock,” said Peerasak.
“When the military steps in, it wants a quick solution. It doesn’t want to see a third or fourth round [of talks].”
From his perspective, Peerasak said the UDD representatives made major concessions just before the talks were ended.
“The red leaders said that they would do whatever they could [to restore peace] while retaining their principles,” Peerasak recounted.
According to Peerasak, the EC stated that the earliest they can hold an election would be October or some time in the next one or two years. He added that the military was clear that it did not want an election in a divided society.