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BURNING ISSUE

Solving the turmoil - a reform panel and a contract?

A TACTICAL truce is in place for the ongoing political crisis, which stemmed from anti-government protests led by former Democrat MP Suthep Thaugsuban.

The truce was achieved after protesters tried to seize several government offices, especially the Metropolitan Police Bureau and Government House.

Initially, police used force to try to defend their bureau and Government House. They fired heavy amounts of tear gas at protesters, who retaliated with ping-pong bombs. Many protesters were injured during the battles in two places.

But suddenly on Tuesday morning when the protesters vowed to overrun both centres, the police allowed them to enter the compounds.

Metropolitan Police chief Pol Lt-General Camronwit Toopgrajank allowed protesters to walk into the bureau and Government House, raising speculation the two sides had reached an agreement.

The question now is, what should the PM do to provide a solution for the political crisis? It will not be enough for her just to resign, because the Pheu Thai Party would still maintain its majority in the House after her resignation. The protesters would not accept a similar Pheu Thai-led coalition government.

A House dissolution would not be enough to please the protesters either, because no matter how a general election is held, Pheu Thai would still win most House seats, leading to a similar coalition government.

It's true that a House dissolution would not end the problems once and for all. But conditions that would follow the House dissolution would be crucial factors for returning Thai society to real peace.

One solution, which is agreed upon by all sides and is seen as a measure to prevent a coup, is to reform the political system. But the question is how the reform should be carried out. Some models have been floated to answer this question.

First, the Council of University Presidents of Thailand (CUPT) proposed that the PM should dissolve the House of Representatives. The CUPT also proposed that the caretaker government should resign to pave the way for the establishment of a government of non-partisan persons to lead political reform and set new election rules. The CUPT proposed that the new rules should be in place before a new election was held.

The proposal sounded interesting, but there was one problem. The laws do not allow a caretaker government to resign. The caretaker government is required by law to run the country pending the establishment of a new administration.

During the political crisis when Thaksin Shinawatra was prime minister, Thaksin, who was caretaker after he dissolved the House, was also called on to resign. But he could not resign so he chose to take leave and his leave had no legal effect.

The most important question is - if a non-partisan government was appointed, would all sides accept it?

Another model for a solution has been floated. The government dissolves the House and then the CUPT proposes a list of members of a political-reform committee to design political reform, or to draft a new constitution. The reform committee should be appointed by the prime minister and all sides in the conflict would sign a contract agreeing to accept all decisions of this committee.

This solution should be the most acceptable one because no side would stand to lose.

Anyway, it would depend on what both sides would base their negotiations on. If the two sides really cared about the country's interests, it wouldn't be difficult for them to reach a sustainable solution for the country.




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