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Negotiated solution the best way out of debilitating political impasse

Peace will never come before talks. But successful talks need the consent of all parties.

It appears that Thailand has again come to the point of no return. The political stalemate seems to have hit a dead end, as the two sides are showing no signs of stepping back during the almost four months of anti-government rallies. Although there were some meetings between both sides, they failed to reach any agreement.

Like the latest effort initiated by the caretaker Yingluck government to hold talks, it was immediately shot down by the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

Former deputy prime minister Wissanu Kruangam last weekend revealed that he was in the process of attempting to broker negotiations between the government and PDRC. But he refused to elaborate, saying he feared the government would move in an opposite direction if more details of the talks were exposed.

A key leader in the anti-government protest yesterday told The Nation that the PDRC would not join the dialogue as now the protesters are gaining an advantage over the government.

"It was a one-sided attempt [to hold talks]. Why do we need such talks? The government and the premier [Yingluck Shinawatra] are facing indictment by independent agencies and also protests from rice farmers," he said. Yingluck is being probed by the anti-graft agency for dereliction of duty related to the government rice-pledging scheme. If found guilty, she will be forced by law to suspend herself from the PM's post.

However, a source from an intelligence agency confirmed that talks had taken place at least twice with the latest one on Friday or Saturday.

At least five people reportedly joined the talks. They were a senior figure, a retired Army general, PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban's brother-in-law Niphon Promphan, Wissanu, and ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra's close aide Wattana Muangsuk.

An initial agreement on the table reportedly was the appointment of an interim government with a non-elected PM, the source said.

If all sides agree on the concession, they will help soften the legal consequences to Yingluck from the probe into alleged irregularities in the rice-pledging scheme and to the protesters from insurrection accusations, he said.

However, Thaksin and his Pheu Thai Party did not completely accept the proposal. Instead he sent some conditions back, the source said.

Another source from the Pheu Thai Party admitted that the ruling party had asked Wissanu to act as the mediator for the talks because the government now realised that if the political impasse is not resolved it would definitely become an economic problem.

Wissanu was chosen because he has the gift of the gab, is trusted by the monarchy, has good relations with veteran politicians and leading businessmen, and is a "superb" legal guru, the source said.

"The big problem today is the difference in legal interpretations. So we need a legal expert like him to help explain issues and convince the stakeholders," he said.

Wissanu sits on a committee of the Council of State chaired by veteran legal expert Meechai Ruechuphan. The council has the greatest influence on the deci-

sion-making of the Yingluck government. But it seems that Wissanu decided to end his role as he thought the talks should have been kept a secret until the deal was done.

Wattana, another key man in the talks, was a negotiator tasked with convincing the Democrat Party to join the election race. The negotiatiion was done via the Election Commission.

The Pheu Thai even accepted the proposal from the Democrats to postpone the February 2 election. But Wattana's role was shot down by other factions inside Pheu Thai.

However, the leaders of Pheu Thai will still push for the talks. They hope another key player, Niphon, will help to make the talks a done deal.

He said at least all sides agreed with the national reform proposal of a reform network co-founded by Kittipong Kittiyarak, permanent secretary of the Justice Ministry.

"Although the government and the PDRC showed their extreme stances, we share one thing in common. It is national reform. And the matter could draw the leaders of the government and the PDRC to sit and talk at this table," he said.


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