Thailand: PM Abhisit Vejjajiva gave a nationally televised speech, on Monday, offering a “reconciliation plan” to the entrenched Red Shirt opposition protesters (United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD)). The proposal would include calling for new parliamentary elections on November 14, 2010.
This has come , “not a moment too soon”, as there were rumors of another attempt at a military crackdown circulating. Even if this was false, the Bangkok protests have dragged on for 7-weeks, with all the key actor’s patience and resolve wearing thin. Initially, the Red Shirt leaders called for new elections to be held within a month, but Vejjajiva rejected those demands. Still Vejjajiva has conditioned:
“…conditions that would have to be met for elections to take place then. Among them was that the government and the protesters would have to agree to support the monarchy and the creation of an independent body to ensure “constructive” news media coverage.”
Sukhumbhand says it is difficult for the monarchy to play a decisive mediating role today, as King Bhumibol has done in the past. That’s because the widely revered monarch is not only physically unfit, but because the royal institution has come under criticism by “one side” of the conflict, according to Sukhumbhand. The government this week accused the UDD of seeking to overthrow the monarchy and has compiled evidence to supposedly show that the red shirts harbor a clandestine agenda. It is an especially inflammatory charge in Thailand’s political context, where the monarchy is legally above politics and protected from criticism by strict lese majeste laws. Red shirt leaders have strongly denied the charge.
Even without the King’s moral authority, it seems that a bargain has been struck as Red Shirt leaders have stated their support for the compromise, although they still have some questions.
“We have reached a consensus to accept the process of reconciliation,” said Veera Musikapong, a protest leader. “This is because we want to spare lives.”
Has the “Passion of the Red Shirts” subsided until the proposed election day? Time will tell.