Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva trumpeted that he was making an important initiative on May 3 to “solve” the political crisis.
The country has been wracked by protests demanding the government — which was never elected — hold elections. The current government was installed after a military coup, far-right “Yellow Shirt” protests and judicial rulings that gave more power to the military.
On May 3, Abhisit offered to dissolve parliament in September and hold elections on November 14. Previously, he had said he would not dissolve parliament until December.
But the offer is conditional on there being “peace in society”.
That means he and his military-backed government could go back on this proposal, claiming conditions were “not yet right” for elections.
While Abhisit was making his proposal, the Military Security Command and deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban were threatening to send tanks and armed soldiers to disperse the pro-democracy Red Shirt protesters in the centre of Bangkok.
They still call the Red Shirts “terrorists” — not the kind of behaviour that will help lead to a peaceful settlement.
Abhisit’s statement was full of lies and excuses. He continued to accuse Red Shirts of undermining the monarchy.
But it is the undemocratic actions of the military, the Yellow Shirt mobs and the government — all carried out in the name of the king — that have turned people against the monarchy.
Abhisit also lied by claiming he upheld the freedom of the press and the media. His government has instigated the most draconian media censorship in living memory.
He conveniently ignored the issue of the 2006 military coup, and the undemocratic measures taken by him and his allies since, claiming that the root cause of the crisis was economic inequality.
Inequality is important, but it can’t be divorced from the attack on democratic rights designed to maintain economic inequality for the benefit of the elites.
Abhisit offered to set up an “independent” committee to look into the April 10 bloodshed, when soldiers killed more than 20 unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators. From past experience, he cannot be trusted.
The National Human Rights Commission is staffed by royalist Yellow Shirts and the judiciary has been highly compromised.
The only solution is to appoint a committee made up of equal representatives from both sides, with someone from outside Thailand as chair.
The Red Shirts have been very determined in their struggle for democracy. They have held a prolonged protest since March, facing the military and mainstream media lies.
They will be ready for negotiations, but they should not settle for a poor compromise. All charges against Red Shirts should be dropped and all those in prison as a result of protests should be immediately released.
The censorship must end. Abhisit should step down so someone else can take his place as a caretaker prime minister.
The emergency decree must be immediately lifted and troops returned to barracks. The head of the army and the major political actors must promise to respect the democratic wishes of the people.
Fresh elections will only be the start of a solution. Thailand needs drastic changes; political, social and economic.
Inequality must be tackled with a welfare state, funded by taxing the rich. The military constitution should be scrapped and the army cut down to a bare minimum.
To push forward with these necessary changes, the Red Shirts need to expand their organisation into trade unions and the lower ranks of the army.
[Abridged from wdpress.blog.co.uk.]