Abhisit’s statement

14 04 2009

PPT has received a copy of the English-language summary version of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s statement on the crisis to the public on the situation in Bangkok on 14 April 2009 at 17:30 hrs. It is  currently being circulated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

Prime Minister Abhisit recalled the need to use the Emergency Decree on the Public Administration in Emergency Situation B.E. 2548 (2005) to contain the demonstrations which turned into riots in Bangkok, noting that he had periodically kept the public informed of developments in this regard. Last night he had stated that the disturbances and inconvenience had largely abated and the situation returned to normal. The only place where a demonstration was continuing was around Government House.

In regard for the feelings and concerns of the public that the operation undertaken by the Government to resolve the demonstrations at Government House could lead to violence and damage, Prime Minister Abhisit gave his reassurance that the Government has never regarded anyone as its enemy and has tried at all times not to cause damage or losses. In order to make sure that the demonstration is put to an end, it was necessary for security officers to move in and ask the protesters who did not support violence to return home. On the morning of 14 April, the operation produced results and the demonstrations ended. The roads previously blocked have now been reopened. The Government has facilitated protesters in their journey home. The Prime Minister thanked all sides for their cooperation.

That said, Prime Minister Abhisit noted, the duties of the Government have not ended. The Government will not be complacent but ever vigilant. Security officials – police, military and civilian – will continue to carry out their duties in the relevant areas in accordance with the Emergency Decree. The Prime Minister asked the public not to panic or worry as the presence of the military is to ensure the safety of the people. Last night there were some attempts to create a situation. Therefore, it is still necessary to safeguard places and key infrastructure in the city. The rapid response team will also be on stand-by. In addition, while there are no longer any demonstrations around Government House, groups of people are still orchestrating rallies elsewhere in the city, although not wearing the symbolic red shirts. He noted that the Government understands these protesters’ feelings and frustrations and will try to find appropriate ways for them to end their demonstrations on the basis of justice and fairness.

Prime Minister Abhisit further explained that during the protests in the afternoon, there were attempts to accuse security officers of using excessive force and even killing protesters. The Government can assure the public that no one was killed during the operation by the security officers. The two deaths caused were a result of a clash between protesters and local residents in a specific neighbourhood. The Prime Minister also stressed that the operations carried out on behalf of the Government have been transparent, with members of the media present while they were carried out. The operations were also conducted during daytime, with the exception of only one which took place in the early morning of 13 April. The Prime Minister urged the public to be careful in receiving news so that they would not be misled by false information.

As for the next steps by the Government, Prime Minister Abhisit said that earlier on 14 April the Cabinet resolved to announce 16 and 17 April as public holidays. This action was prompted by two reasons. Firstly, as a consequence of the protests, there is still a need for the authorities to work in the affected areas to clean up the debris and dispose of any dangerous materials. The holidays would facilitate the discharge of this task. Secondly, the extra holidays will provide an opportunity for the public to relax after the recent period of anxiety. Bearing in mind that some people might be affected by the announcement of the extra public holidays, the Government has instructed government agencies providing public services to make sure there remain an adequate number of officials to provide such services during the two days. For example, the Government will make sure that the handing out of 2,000-baht cheques, as part of the stimulus package, on 16 April continues uninterrupted.

Regarding the announced Emergency Situation in the areas of Bangkok and its vicinities, the Prime Minister said that it still needs to remain in effect as the work of the Government has not yet been completed. While the general situation has returned to normal, we are still under the state of emergency.

Regarding law enforcement, the protest leaders who have been inciting the public to break the law will be brought to justice. Legal proceedings will be initiated against them in accordance with the judicial process. The Government will ensure that all cases are handled fairly and that justice is served. Promoting reconciliation through justice and fairness in society is one of the key policies of this current administration. As for the remaining protest leaders who have disappeared, arrest warrants have been issued. Anyone who has information of their whereabouts is requested to inform the Government.

Prime Minister Abhisit reiterated that the Government respects different views and opinions, and attaches importance to human dignity. The Government does not view its success on this occasion as a victory over the protesters, and should this be considered a victory, it is one for all Thai people. With regard to the attempt to harm the Prime Minister or the clashes that resulted from a small group of people misleading the public and inciting illegal acts, one should not let such incidents become personal grudges against another.

The Prime Minister emphasized that if all sides cooperate with one another, peace will return to Thai society. Political problems should be discussed in political for a, be they Parliament or civil society settings. The Government is open to all views on the promotion of justice, democracy and political reform, and will invite all parties concerned to discuss ways for the country to move forward for the benefit of all Thai people. From now on, the main priority of the Government is to bring the country back to its peaceful state. If further incidents develop, the Government will keep the public informed.

In closing, Prime Minister Abhisit expressed his appreciation to everyone concerned and expressed his understanding of the feelings of the public as well as the impact on business. It is now time to revitalise the country, he said, and renewed his vow to work for everyone in Thailand with determination and honesty, and to lead to country out of the current criss.

As PPT has commented previously, there is often a significant divergence between Abhisit’s public statements and the government’s actions. This statement is a mixture of spin, untruths and veiled threats. Perhaps the most worrying element of the statement is Abhisit’s claim to a need for a state of emergency – something he opposed when in opposition when his PAD allies protested – as a means to stifle dissent. This also provides the security forces with additional powers to act against the government’s enemies.

PPT further wonders about the sincerity of the statement “The Government is open to all views on the promotion of justice, democracy and political reform, and will invite all parties concerned to discuss ways for the country to move forward for the benefit of all Thai people.”   What does Abhisit mean by “justice,” “democracy,” and “political reform.” As recent events and the broader frame of twentieth-century Thai history indicates, the content of these terms is not clear.  Finally, PPT asks which Thai people? Over the past months, it has become clear that “all parties” cannot discuss the future of the country together.  This is the real state of emergency Thailand faces.



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