IN HIS FIRST meeting with warring parties yesterday, Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha mapped out resolutions to pull the country out of the ongoing political crisis, though they failed to come to a conclusion.
Representatives from the government, the ruling Pheu Thai Party, the opposition Democrat Party, the pro-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), the Senate and the Election Commission (EC) all presented their ideas to the Army chief.
The ideas they offered were no different from what they had previously proposed in public, which had failed to end the impasse. Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva outlined the very same roadmap that he had proposed earlier, Army deputy spokesperson Winthai Suvaree said.
In the second round of meeting today, the Army chief expects to get answers from all sides on five issues: election, neutral government, reform, protest and security measures, a source close to the meeting said.
Regarding holding an election, Prayuth wants to know how polls can be held in six to nine months. On the issue of a neutral government, he wants to know if it will be a caretaker government or one that has full mandate.
On reform, he wants to know precisely what reforms each side wants to see and in what form.
On protests, the Army chief wants to know if the protesters could end their rallies and return home soon, acting Senate Speaker Surachai Liengboonlertchai, who was at the meeting, said.
“The commander did not order that the protests be stopped, but said he wanted to see the protesters go home while the negotiation is going on,” he revealed.
A source said Prayuth did not want to use force to crack down on either the pro- or anti-government protesters, but wanted all sides to stop their rallies peacefully.
Prayuth also wants to put measures in place for the safety of people and economic security, the source said.
However, people may not be able to come up with answers to Prayuth’s questions overnight.
Pheu Thai ‘ready to cooperate’
Pheu Thai Party’s executive committee member Wan Muhammad Noor Matha insisted at the meeting that his party was happy to cooperate with the military, provided it was within the Constitutional framework, which did not allow a non-elected prime minister to take office.
At the meeting, Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri said people should be given the right to decide on the country’s future through an election, and the martial law enforced by the military should facilitate a smooth round of balloting.
He said national reform required time and proper lawmakers to implement them. “A fully mandated premier without an election is legally impossible,” he was quoted as saying at the meeting.
Meanwhile, UDD leader Jatuporn Promphan said as the parties present were not able to find common ground, the Army should hold a public referendum to see if the people wanted reform before election or the other way around. He suggested that the referendum be held in September and the election be scheduled for October or November.
PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban, however, insisted that as the country did not have a prime minister, it was the Senate’s duty to find a non-political individual for the premier’s job and implement reform before the election. He said conducting a public referendum as proposed by Jatuporn would only create new conflicts.
Prayuth told the meeting that he had enforced martial law because he did not wish to see any more bloodshed.
“I want to see every problem settled within this forum before I retire [in September]. I don’t want my juniors to take up this job. If the problem is not solved, I will not retire,” he was quoted as saying at the |meeting.
At the talks
Government: Varathep Ratanakorn, Chaikasem Nitisiri, Pongsak Ruktapongpisal, Sermsak Pongpanit, Phongthep Thepkanjana
Pheu Thai Party: Viroj Pao-in, Phumtham Wechayachai, Prompong Nopparit, Chusak Sirinil, Wan Muhamad Noor Matha
Democrat Party: Abhisit Vejjajiva, Jurin Laksanavisit, Nipit Indharasombat, Chamni Sakdiset, Chuti Krairiksh
UDD: Jatuporn Prompan, Nuttawut Saikuar, Thida Thavornseth, Veerakarn Musigapong, Korkaew Pikulthhong
PDRC: Suthep Thaugsuban, Satit Wongnongtaey, Akanat Promphan, Somsak Kosaisuk, Sombat Thamrongthanyawong
Election Commission: SupachaiSomcharoen, Pravich Rattanapian, Boonsong Noisophon, Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, Phuchong Nutrawong
Senate: Surachai Liengboon-lertchai, Peerasak Porjit