The tragedy grows, but does either side want resolution?

national February 27, 2014 00:00

The Nati

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THE POLITICAL situation is worsening and there are no signs of improvement any time soon. Blatant, violent attacks are taking place frequently, with many casualties, and no culprits have been arrested.

In the latest incidents at protest sites in Trat and Bangkok, four children were killed. The assailants used hand grenades and assault rifles in Trat and a rocket-fired grenade near the capital’s Ratchaprasong intersection.

Since the anti-government protests began last October, 21 people have been killed and more than 700 others injured. The number of casualties is likely to increase further if the attacks continue.

What is heartbreaking is that children were among the victims of the ongoing political conflict; and nobody seems to have learned a lesson from what happened. Both sides in the conflict blame each other for the violence and are also playing on the untimely deaths to fan the hatred against their political enemies – putting oil on the fire.

Government politicians condemned the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), accusing it of creating the tragedy for political advantage. They said the PDRC’s recent street protests were drawing only a small number of participants and needed the violence to get more support.

Some government members even claimed a grenade at Ratchaprasong was fired from the nearby protest stage – although witnesses and initial investigation showed it came from the opposite direction, the flyover bridge at Pratunam intersection.

If they had concrete evidence, those government figures should have produced it. Such charges not only add to the anger among their political enemies, but also arouse hatred among their supporters, many of whom are ready to believe anything they hear.

The PDRC leaders, meanwhile, immediately accused the government, without waiting for results of the investigation into the attacks. They claimed people close to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra were behind the assaults and that foreign assailants had been hired to attack the protesters.

It appeared many PDRC supporters were ready to believe the protest leaders who made their accusations on stage. This led to rising hatred against the government – while many red-shirt supporters of the ruling Pheu Thai Party felt their government was being unfairly vilified.

As both sides take advantage of the increased tension, efforts to solve the conflict through negotiation have failed repeatedly – mainly because both have diametrically opposite standpoints and both are engaged in a zero-sum game in which the winner takes all.

Phra Buddha Issara, a Buddhist monk who is a PDRC leader, wrote in his Facebook page about his talks with former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat from the ruling party. He was supposed to keep the meeting secret until after both sides had reached an accord.

Earlier, Suthep Thaugsuban, the top PDRC leader, also disclosed details of his military-brokered talks with caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, not long after the mass anti-government rally began late last year.

From this latest disclosure by the monk, it appears both sides are unlikely to settle their differences through negotiation.

The final question for the conflicting sides is whether they sincerely want to solve the conflict – or whether they want to go down the path to a civil war.

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