Supreme commander calls on two sides to talk

national January 19, 2014 00:00

By The Sunday Nation

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'PDRC and govt need to think of the country, but mediator needed'

The Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces appealed to both sides of the political conflict yesterday to come together and seek a solution for the country, although he admitted there was difficulty finding a neutral mediator acceptable to each group.
General Thanasak Patimaprakorn said both sides in the political feud should seek a win-win solution. He said the situation was serious and Thailand was like a patient suffering from cancer that needs immediate attention.
“Both the government and the protesters may lose but the nation will gain. If they don’t talk, we won’t see the way,” he said.
The Supreme Commander urged both sides to sacrifice for the sake of the country but acknowledged that there was no mediator to facilitate a dialogue at the moment. He suggested that any domestic group ready to play the role should volunteer.
He said Thailand should not allow foreign states to meddle in the crisis, naming the United States in particular.
Thanasak also expressed sadness over the death of one People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protester and injuries sustained by 40 others after an explosive was thrown at a march led by PDRC secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban on Banthad Thong Road.
“I am worried and do not want anyone to be hurt. If there’s anything we can do together, we should.”
The Armed Forces, said Thanasak, were not taking sides with any political group and he compared the colour of the armed forces as grey, with both black and white colours in it.
He said police had the main responsibility to care for the protesters’ safety but the guards at various rally sites did not trust them. He said it would be best for them to work together. 
Currently, Army officers work in tandem with police to ensure the safety of protesters. But soldiers were not carrying any guns in order to avoid violence, he said.
Security personnel needed to be vigilant, he said, after the deadly bomb attack on Friday. Thanasak said the good thing was that there has been no direct physical confrontation between supporters of both sides since operation “Bangkok shutdown” was launched by the PDRC on Monday.
In a related development, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) yesterday proposed that the caretaker Yingluck Shinawatra administration take a softer stance and not try to arrest PDRC leaders because that could lead to the situation getting out of control.
NHRC commissioner Niran Pitakwatchara said the government would be responsible for the loss of lives and injuries to protesters and other groups. He said the government should seek to hold a dialogue instead of threatening to arrest protest leaders. This would reduce tension and violence, he said.
“What must be urgently done is to reduce the stance of wanting to arrest PDRC leaders because if such a strong stance continues, the problem would reach a dead end,” Niran said. 
“What’s more, do not think of the protesters as the enemy of the government and speed up clarifications and dialogue in a bid to reduce violence.”
Niran acknowledged that the NHRC’s attempt to mediate in order to allow police to help ensure security together with the PDRC guards had failed.