posted on May, 18 2010 @ 06:53 PM
Peace hopes fading
By Naya Jaikawang,
Published on May 19, 2010
Angry reds boo off leaders'attempts to talk peace; govt: Protesters must leave Rajprasong before any talks; Thaksin allegedly makes demands which
govt saysit cannot accept
Angry red-shirt protesters booed off their leaders' attempts to enter an immediate peace process with the government yesterday, presenting another
major stumbling block to attempts to end the bloody violence plaguing Bangkok.
Before the major twist in the evening, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was decried by the government as the main mastermind of the violence
and the key obstacle to peace. The government also rejected calls for a mutual cease-fire, saying the red shirts must leave the Rajprasong
intersection first before any peace talks can begin.
But a group of five senators, led by Senator Lertrat Ratanavanich, visited the Rajprasong stage early in the evening and managed to convince the
leaders to agree to a unilateral cease-fire to immediately kick-start the peace process. When Lertrat announced the agreement to protesters, they
greeted him with boos and threw articles.
Red leaders took turns to try to pacify the crowd, who still sounded very upset as they spoke. The leaders said dozens of times that their intention
to "save lives" should not be interpreted as a "secret deal" with the government. "Even dogs can't do that [striking a secret deal with the
government]," said Natthawut Saikua.
After spending two months portraying the Abhisit government as the worst tyrant, the leaders found out that the crowd had taken it all seriously, with
emotions fuelled by the heavy casualties inflicted on the movement after four days of violence. Last night, therefore, was a make-or-break moment
which would reveal if the leaders could still control the crowd or it has become an independent, unpredictable force of its own.
The defiant crowd presented another snag after Thaksin allegedly made demands that could not be met by the government. According to a government
source, Thaksin, through his representatives, appeared uninterested in an early end to the red shirts' protests and riots as long as he did not get
what he wanted.
"As long as Thaksin does not get what he wants, he won't let this end so easily," said the source. "His latest condition is that he wants not only
amnesty in the different cases against him, but also have his passports returned. Those conditions cannot be met by the government."
Violence continued but with decreased intensity in Bangkok, with Bon Kai and Rajprarop remaining the most sensitive areas, where sporadic gunshots and
explosions were still heard. The fatality toll since last Friday was 37, excluding Maj-General Khattiya Sawasdipol. Nearly 300 people are injured.
Thaksin's influence in the ongoing secret talks between the government and the red shirts was confirmed by another source from the opposition Pheu
The source, who is close to the ex-premier, said that certain Pheu Thai leaders and Thaksin's close relatives were also involved in the secret talks.
In addition to other conditions, such as the date for a new election, Thaksin also made his personal demands.
"Up till now, there have been no positive responses to the demands. These include a return of part of assets from the asset-seizure case and a return
of Thaksin's passports," said the Pheu Thai source.
The source also said that Thaksin has a "trump card" in hand that he would use if the talks fail.
"The real strategists [Thaksin's allies from the military] will play an underground game by staging sabotage acts in different areas throughout the
city and other major provinces in order to pressure the government to accept Thaksin's conditions," the source said.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet yesterday declared the three remaining work days of the week as public holidays in Bangkok to facilitate the operations to
restore peace in the city.
During yesterday's Cabinet meeting at the 11th Infantry Regiment, the head strategist of the operation, deputy Army chief of staff Lt-General Dawpong
Rattanasuban, explained to the ministers about the military-led operation. He was assigned by Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who heads the
Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation.
The general said Army snipers were responsible for some deaths during the mayhem but those killed were carrying weapons, a government source quoted
him as saying. "When the bodies or the injured people were taken away [from the scene], the weapons lying beside them were left behind," he was
quoted by the source as telling the Cabinet.
Dawpong also said that many of the deaths were caused by heavily armed men siding with the red shirts. "More than a hundred grenades were fired from
M79 launchers," he said, adding that deaths of "innocent people" were often wrongly blamed on the military.
In a related development, Pheu Thai MPs plan to submit a petition to Senate Speaker Prasopsuk Boondej this morning seeking impeachment of Suthep and
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for ordering the military operations on the red shirts.
MP Surapong Towichakchaikul said the party resolved that all of its MPs sign the petition. Any MP who fails to take part would not be fielded in the
next election as they would be suspected of possible defection.
Also yesterday, Thammasat University's law lecturer Parinya Thewanarumitkul released an open letter reminding the prime minister and red-shirt leader
Jatuporn Promphan that they were fellow protesters 18 years ago when there were street demonstrations against a coup leader becoming prime minister.
The protests led to a deadly military crackdown