Sunday, March 28, 2010

Protest In Thailand Taking A New Twist

So the Reds retreated from the Government House last night to focus on their next target, the 11th Infantry Army base. At 4.30am today, 2 grenades exploded at the army base, wounded 4 soldiers on duty, 2 in critical condition.

By 7.00am a large group of protesters have already gathered near the army base. The Reds wanted to meet the Prime Minister, Abhisit and gave him an hour to decide if he was willing to meet them at a location of his choice otherwise they would storm the army base. Just before receiving the ultimatum from the Reds, Abhisit appeared on national TV, reiterated that he was willing to negotiate with the Reds but not under present circumstances where he was being pressured and threatened by protesters. At the same time, the government warned that Martial Law would be invoked if the Reds tried to intrude the army compound.

However later, through a minister of his, Abhisit announced that he was willing to meet the Reds, apparently to avoid any imminent confrontation with the protesters. He wanted all protesters to leave the 11th Infantry before that meeting could be held. He assigned his Secretary General, Korbsak to workout the details of the meeting with the Reds and to choose a location. Abhisit was given another ultimatum by the reds, to finalise the details of the meeting otherwise they would create trouble. General Korbsak later announced that the meeting would be held at King Prachadipok Insitute at 4pm today and would be broadcast live on national TV. Meanwhile, the Reds refused to leave the army base, they would remain there until the meeting is held.

Meanwhile for the first time since the mass protest started more than 2 weeks ago, thousands of Bangkok residents representing 1800 communities groups assembled at Siam BTS Station to protest against the Reds and the dissolution of parliament.

( wrong people at wrong places )

Blood drinking time ? No, just syrup

This is where the protesters rest and sleep at night

The meeting between the PM and the Reds started as scheduled.

Abhisit was accompanied by his Secretary General, Korbsak and Chamdi. While the reds were represented by Jatuporn, Weng, Veera
Here's roughtly what transpired during the meeting

- Veera says previously they ( the Reds ) were communicating with Abhisit through the media and thanks Abhisit for coming today so that they could meet face to face. He says the goal of their movement is the dissolution of parliament.

- Abhisit says he doesn't want a particular party to win but all Thais as winners and his government does not want enemies ( Veera nods in agreement ). He says that he has never refused to dissolve the parliament as dissolution of parliament is normal in a democratic country. He asks Veera " but for what purpose ? is the dissolution of parliament the answer ? "

- Veera blames all the problems on the 2008 coup which he claims was unconstitutional and that the present government is as a result of the coup. He says the coup resulted in unfair drafting of constitution. They wanted amendment of constitution, referendum and discussions but all these never happened. He gurantees peace if an agreement is reached. " I can't see how this ends without an election " he says. He says if a new election is held it will be referendum on charter amendments. Candidates can ask voters if they want amendments on consititution. He further assures that the Reds will respect whatever outcome of a new election.

- Abhisit says he is against the coup and agrees with Veera that the coup has created problems but the real problems started before that. He also says the 1997 charter is problematic and 2007 charter also has problem but it ( 2007 charter ) has been endorsed by referendum. He says that he comes to the meeting as a PM not as the Democrat ( his party ) leader and that he needs to seek opinions from his coalition parties. He tells the Reds that his government won't last forever. He says the Reds need to reach an agreement with him first as to whether dissolution of parliament and an election can solve all the problems. Even if nothing happens now, there will still be another election next year ( for new term ), he says.

- Abhisit does not agree that a new election is equivalent to referendum on charter amendments. He then refers to a doctored audio clip played on Reds stage where he was purpotedly plotting violent confrontation against protesters. He asks " what would happen if this tape is played during election campaign ? " He then ask the reds if they accept the present election rules, whether they would accept if their party wins in the election but is later disqualified because of present election rules.

- Abhisit tells the Reds that has tried to coordinate efforts to amend the charter even on points he didn't want to amend.

- Veera says the people are not happy with interference from the army. He says the Abhisit led coalition government was set up with interference from the army. He says this is what prompted the reds to hit the streets.

- Abhisit insisted that the dissolution of parliament is a different matter from the efforts to amend the constituion and is confident that many people share the same opinion with him. Abhisit also notes that the government used to push for charter amendments but the Pheu Thai Party itself boycotted the proposed amendments after former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra said "no" to the amendments.

- Jatuporn tells Abhisit politely " It's alright if you do not want to dissolve the House but after the coffee wwe will return to the rally ". He assures that the reds wont seize government buildings. He then jokes " you are just a year older than me but you are aging faster than me ".

- Abhisit says they need to find answers to the problems not for just 6 people sitting in that hall but for 63 million Thais.

- Jatuporn answers " I still can't see how you staying on will solve the problems" Since you aren't dissolving, then we will keep on fighting.

- Abhisit asks " Can there be a middle way ? " and re-iterates that " no democratic country in the world would agrre to "change" under threat by anti government protesters. "I accept some of your reasons which I think are all right. But can we go out of this room and find the right answers?" Abhisit asks.

- Abhisit turns to Weng and asks " in your years of fighting for democracy, has another PM ever sat down and talked with you ?

- Jatuporn asks Abhisit a final question "Are you dissolving the House or not?"

- Abhisit answers "I've never said I would stay until the end of government term. 100,000 people coming withou reasons need to be explained to. One man coming with reasons need to be listened to. " He says " let's have clear cut talk on Constitution first which shouldn't take long ". He tells the Reds he hopes he can lay groundworks toward reconciliation. You have the rights to continue to rally under the constitution but further talk can resume tomorrow. I'll only go to Brunei for a day trip ".

- Jatuporn tells Abhisit " I know you are a very reasonable man but it just can't go on like this "

- Abhisit answers "I don't mind if I'll win or lose if House is dissolved. What I do mind is whether House dissolution now is the answer. If i deceive you, believe me, anybody who does that won't be able to stay in power.

- Jatuporn hinted a short time framed might be acceptable.

- It was reported many Thais at grassroot levels were satisfied with what the PM said during the just concluded meeting with the Reds.

The next meeting will be held tomorrow ( 6pm ).

Here's the video before the meeting commenced. Take a look at the antics of the photographers.

For those who understand Thai and wish to watch the whole meeting which lasted close to 3 hours, you may go to youtube. " mahhaudj " has uploaded videos for the whole session. Here is the 2nd video ( the above one is the 1st ), there are many other more.

To lighten the atmosphere i repost this video which i have posted on this blog last year.. Someone made this video when Abhisit was appointed as PM in 2008. The lyrics of the songs are exactly what Abhisit wanted to tell his people, especially to the Reds. Like what a farang ( westerner ) said " Abhisit isn't a bad man, he just isn't elected ". So give him a chance. Enjoy the video