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Turmoil in Thailand: Government offers dialogue, will sit out protests

Published on Dec 7, 2013 6:43 PM
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Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra speaking to foreign journalists at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on Dec 7, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NIRMAL GHOSH

Thailand’s government is willing to offer open dialogue and ‘’any options under the constitution and under the law’’ to solve the political crisis, its Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has said, ahead of anti-government protests resuming on Monday.
 
But the demands of the protesters who have over the past two weeks laid siege to or occupied government compounds and fought pitched battles with police, could not be met under Thailand’s Constitution, she insisted.

Protesters have called for royal intervention to set up an appointed ''people's council'' to be set up to run the country, to undertake political reforms and then return to elections.  

The beleaguered Premier, speaking to a small group of foreign journalists at Government House yesterday minutes before a customary grand reception to celebrate the King’s 86th birthday, said the government would continue to ‘’handle the situation peacefully and with the principle that we will stick with democracy and the rule of law’.’  
 
‘’We believe as long as the government still maintains peaceful ways and uses legal law enforcement, there is hope that in the future the situation will be back to normal’’ she said. And while ‘’it might not be finished soon’’ neither would it last long.
 
‘’We respect the comments of the minority, the protesters, but we believe if the government maintains the peaceful and democratic process it will (in time) be settled without violence.’’
 
She said she was ready to step down and dissolve parliament and call an election, but ‘’all parties (should) agree with the principle that we dissolve and everyone (should) join for a peaceful election and the judgement goes back to the people’.’
 
‘’We have no problem with this,’’ she said. ‘’But it seems… the protesters don’t want any of these options. They want me as prime minister to return the power of the prime minister to the people’’ – which could not be done under the Constitution, she said.
 
She pledged that there would be no revival of amnesty legislation, which originally triggered the current round of protests because a proposed Bill would have allowed her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, to return to Thailand.
 
She insisted, however, that amnesty schemes were not unusual in political conflicts, and that Thailand’s conflict was rooted in the 2006 coup d’etat that ousted her brother from the premiership.
 
‘’People night not agree on the detail of the amnesty Bill. But... we will stop and we will not bring up the amnesty Bill again. That is a commitment.’’

nirmal@sph.com.sg

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