THIS SATURDAY may turn out to be an important day in the ongoing political crisis. Three events will take place on that day and if good decisions are made, they could provide a hope for the resolution of the problems.
First, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee plans its next mass rally in a bid to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her caretaker Cabinet to resign. The PDRC organised similar marches in November and December, which prompted the prime minister to dissolve the House of Representatives on December 9.
After more than a month of the PDRC’s “Bangkok shutdown” campaign, which began on January 13, its protest sites in Bangkok were repeatedly attacked with heavy weapons. The group later dispersed its rally sites in downtown and moved its protest inside Lumpini Park, citing security reasons.
The PDRC has now focused its activities on holding seminars to prepare a “blueprint” for Thailand’s reforms. Its leaders have also become more hopeful of a victory over the caretaker government, with some courts and independent agencies dealing with cases against the prime minister and her Cabinet.
However, supporters of the ruling Pheu Thai Party have expressed dissatisfaction over the actions or verdicts by the courts and independent agencies. The government has also shown no signs of giving up. So, in the PDRC’s view, there is a need to hold another mass rally to heighten pressure.
The rally this Saturday also will serve as a gauge of the PDRC’s popularity. Throughout this week, its secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban and other leaders have been participating in daily marches to “invite” people supporting national reforms to take part in the mass rally on Saturday. It has yet to be seen whether the number of participants will be as large as the previous ones.
A second key event is that leaders of Pheu Thai’s red-shirt supporters plan a “closed-doors meeting” on that day to discuss plans for a mass red-shirt rally in Bangkok on April 5.
Sources said leaders of the red-shirt movement – United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) – would “assess the situation” after looking at the size of the PDRC crowds on Saturday. A small turnout would trigger a big “counterattack” by the UDD.
It will be interesting to see, after their assessment of the situation, whether the UDD leaders will continue with their mass rally on April 5. When the PDRC rallies were sizeable a few months ago, the red-shirt leaders cancelled many of what they termed “mass rallies” of Pheu Thai supporters.
A decision to go ahead with a big red-shirt rally could lead to clashes with the anti-government protesters.
A third event is a meeting of the Democrat Party to decide whether it should contest a new election to be called after the February 2 vote was declared void by the Constitutional Court. The court cited the fact that the election was not held on the same day in the entire country, as required by the Constitution.
The Democrats boycotted the February 2 election. Although the party will not be punished by dissolution if it opts to boycott again, because the previous one is voided, people will remember that the Democrats have refused to contest elections twice.
If the Democrats decide to contest the new election, their supporters within the PDRC crowd are more likely to go to the polls although the PDRC will attempt to disrupt voting again unless there are reforms first.
If good decisions are made by the three parties this Saturday, they will help improve the situation.
A peaceful mass rally by the PDRC will be a win-win outcome for all parties involved. A decision by UDD leaders not to bring a mass red-shirt rally to the capital will help prevent confrontation between both sides. And a decision by the Democrats to contest the new election will help ensure its success.
With “good signals” from the three parties, the government should also join in to find a way out for Thailand. All sides involved must play their part and role in this cooperation. Acting alone is unlikely to lead to success.