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Thailand: What Abhisit has really offered; UDD's response


Solidarity in Australia with the Thai people's struggle for democracy. Photos by Thai Red Australia, Peter Boyle and Mat Ward.

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

May 4, 2010 -- Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva trumpeted today that he was taking an important initiative to “solve” the political crisis. He offered to dissolve parliament in September and hold elections on November 14, 2010. Previously he had said that he would not dissolve parliament until December. Yet even this offer was conditional on there being “peace in society”. That means that he and his military-backed government can go back on this proposal and claim that conditions were “not yet right” for elections nearer the time.

While Abhisit was making his proposal, the Military Security Command and deputy prime minister Sutep were threatening to send tanks and armed soldiers to disperse the pro-democracy Red Shirt protesters in the centre of Bangkok. They still call them “terrorists”. This is not the kind of behaviour which will help lead to a peaceful settlement.

Abhisit's statement was full of lies and excuses. On the monarchy, Abhisit continued to accuse Red Shirts of undermining the institution, when it is the undemocratic actions of the military, the pro-government Yellow Shirt mobs and the government, all carried out in the name of king, which are turning people against the monarchy. Abhisit also lied that when he said he upheld the freedom of the press and the media. His government has instigated the most draconian censorship of the media in living memory and it continues to do so. He conveniently ignored the issue of the military coup in 2006 and all the undemocratic measures taken by him and his allies since, claiming that the root cause of the crisis was economic inequality. Such inequality is indeed important, but it cannot be divorced from the attack on democratic rights. It is this attack on freedom which is designed to maintain the economic inequalities in Thai society for the benefit of the elites.

Abhisit offered to set up an “independent” committee to look into the April 10, 2010, bloodshed when he and his government sent tanks and armed soldiers against unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators. From past experience he cannot be trusted. The political crisis since 2006 makes it almost impossible to find anyone who could be neutral or independent. The National Human Rights Commission is staffed by royalist Yellow Shirts and the judiciary has been highly compromised. The only solution would be to appoint a committee made up of equal representatives from both sides of the divide and to find someone from outside Thailand, perhaps from the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), to chair such a committee.

The Red Shirts have been very determined in their struggle for democracy. They have held a prolonged protest since mid-March. They have faced the armed might of the military and a whole host of lies from the mainstream media. 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, resulting from the protest, should be immediately released. The censorship must end. Abhisit should apologies for all the lies he has told about the Red Shirts and he should step down so that someone else can take his place as a caretaker prime minister. The emergency decree must be immediately lifted and troops returned to barracks and 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 to the deep crisis. Thailand needs drastic changes; political, social and economic. The lese majeste law must be scrapped and political prisoners released. Inequality must be tackled by introducing a welfare state funded by taxing the rich. The military constitution should also be scrapped and the army should be cut to a bare minimum. To push forward with these necessary changes, the Red Shirts need to expand their organisation into the trade unions and the lower ranks of the army.

UDD's answer to Abhisit, May 4, 2010

Note: UDD = National United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship = Red Shirts.

1. UDD is happy to enter negotiations and the process of solving the crisis.

2. UDD wants to know the exact date of the dissolution of parliament since the election date is determined by the election commission, not the prime minister.

3. The government must stop all repressive measures. The citizens must have freedom of movement, freedom of assembly and freedom to receive information via all forms of media.

4. The UDD leadership does not seek any pardon for charges of overthrowing the monarchy or charges of terrorism. They are happy to fight all charges in court. Similarly, those responsible for ordering soldiers to kill unarmed civilians should not receive any pardon. The government must press forward with cases against the PAD for seizing the airports.

5. All sides must stop using the monarchy for political purposes.

[Giles Ji Ungpakorn is a Thai socialist currently in exile in Britain. He is a member of Left Turn Thailand and maintains a blog at http://wdpress.blog.co.uk/.] 

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UDD statement May 6, 2010

http://wdpress.blog.co.uk/2010/05/06/udd-statement-6-may-8527540/

RATCHAPRASONG, MAY 6, 2010: United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leaders have again today debunked speculation that the red-shirt rally at Ratchaprasong will soon be packing up and the protesters returning home.

UDD secretary-general Natthawut Saikua said the red-shirt leaders were still waiting to see the sincerity of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s five point road map for reconciliation and whether it was a concrete proposal with the support of all opposition factions and parties, or just hollow rhetoric.

“We have made no plans for packing up our tents and stage and returning to our homes and families until we see this is a concrete plan and not just words. Once we know for certain that the reconciliation plan is a firm road map as outlined then we will discuss amongst ourselves what is needed to demonstrate its sincerity”, he said.

Mr. Natthawut said the prime minister needed to do more than just set a pariamemtary dissolution date before the red-shirts would return home.

“It has been widely reported that all we want is a firm dissolution date and then we will pack up and go home. When we acknowledged our acceptance of Abhisit’s reconciliation offer it was simply agreeing to the concept of the plan as what it contained is what we have been lobbying for all along.

“Abhisit has made this look like this is his idea. In reality it is what the red-shits have been asking for since our protest started and since the government attacked our peaceful protest with heavy war weapons and killed our supporters”.

Mr. Natthawut said “we have said all along that the proposal of PM Abhisit needs to be backed up with actions to demonstrate its sincerity before the rally would come to an end.

“These actions include the lifting of the current state of emergency declaration, the freedom for people to move and assemble for political purposes free of intimidation and harassment by soldiers and police armed with weapons, the return to air of the People Television Channel, and the lifting of censorship and blocking of media and websites supportive of the red-shirt movement to name a few.

“Once we see this is a genuine offer the leaders will meet together as we did a few days ago and formulate a response that will list the prerequisites for us bringing our peaceful rally to an end and returning home’, he said.

Mr. Natthawut said speculation that the red-shirts wool dismantle their stage, tents and barricades at Ratchaprasong over the next couple of days is pure conjecture without any basis.

“We’ve said we agree to the points outlined in the Abhisit plan, but now we want proof he can deliver what he has offered. This government has used the might of the Thai Army against peaceful protesters, injuring more than 1,000 people and causing the death of 27 overs. With actions such as this we want proof that the reconciliation plan is more than just words crafted for the international and community and Bangkok elite before we go home”, he added.

Today is day 52 of the red-shirts pro-democracy protest against the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the 32nd day protesters have occupied the Ratchaprasong shopping precinct in the heart of Bangkok.

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