Talks

29 03 2010

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva agreed to talk with the red shirt leaders. When they talked, however, it was little more than a statement of existing positions. This is not to deny that getting the government to the table was a remarkable feat given the intransigence displayed by Abhisit previously; indeed, earlier in the day. As PPT has long pointed out, what Abhisit says and does are often diametrically opposed. While he has often said he is open to negotiations, the conditions he sets mean that there will be none. So getting a change of political mind was a victory of sorts.

There are numerous versions of the reasons for the change of tactics by the government circulating on the blogs, involving the military and the monarchy, but no verifiable accounts.

PPT doesn’t propose to summarize the discussions that were broadcast live to a remarkably quiet Bangkok. PPT assumes that people were watching and listening. Bangkok Pundit has a summary of the talks and the positions taken, and also has a useful listing of the international press coverage.

Some brief observations: It was important to have a live broadcast as this was an opportunity for the red shirts to present their story to the audience that usually doesn’t hear much about their ideas and views via the mainstream media. This may make some difference, but many will continue to view them as uncouth, dark-skinned buffaloes who engage in violent and uncivil acts (see the comments by a yellow-shirted senator at Prachatai).

Abhisit attended with members of the Democrat Party, leaving out the coalition partners. The partner’s responses are yet to be clearly seen. Abhisit also made a play of being “the first prime minister to ever…”. He makes these claims regularly and often they are meaningless. This time, though, he’s right. It is not often that Thai prime ministers talk with opponents in such an open way.

The two sides are a long way apart and the issues revolve around elections, constitutions and the political role of the military. Dr. Weng made the point several times that Abhisit’s government is the result of a coup and extra-parliamentary maneuvering that means Thailand is not a real democracy. Abhisit and his colleagues were never likely to agree to this assessment. Most of Abhisit’s basic positions were no different from those he has made for weeks and these are well known to those accessing the mainstream media.

What was striking, however, was Abhisit’s insistence on constitutional change before an election. He has a patchy track record on this. There have been statements from him on constitutional reform, but these have all fallen into the usual traps. He has made no personal commitment to meaningful constitutional reform and has not personally been engaged with the agenda. It’s the talk but there is no action problem again.

The government’s other line is to say that “elections will solve nothing” while also saying that dissolving parliament is not off the agenda. Many in the middle class and elite will agree with the rejection of elections because they fear the outcome will bring politicians they view as pro-Thaksin back to power. Abhisit may have angered some in his right-wing support base by talking, but nothing he said is going to immediately cause concern for his yellow-shirted supporters in the Democrat Party or more broadly.

By engaging in negotiations, the red shirts risk losing the momentum of the street, while the government might lose some face by its abrupt change of position on negotiations, the negotiations provide gains in terms of time, and the potential a declining/reducing red shirt rally. But the red shirts have come up with surprises in the past couple of weeks that have proven effective, so the political struggle continues even if the public terrain has changed.

It is interesting to note the appearance of a few stories that present a red shirt protesters perspective in some of the media today (see an example here). Where have they been for the past few weeks? There is also a report  of a petition by Thai and international professors calling for an election “in due course.” Perhaps this is a coincidence of timing, but like a similar petition on lese majeste, the report in the media makes it seem remarkably tepid.


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8 04 2010
Yellow academics « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Yellow academics The Bangkok Post (8 April 2010) reports on what might be called “dueling letters” as various academics call for or oppose a House dissolution. The latest is from the most yellow of yellow shirted academics. Others were reported here, here and here. […]

26 09 2010
Abhisit at CFR I « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] for the best, for the country’s interests…”. He has not moved on this for months. Back in March, we posted […]

30 10 2012
Kavi on Abhisit by Abhisit « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] He had repeatedly refused any negotiation and abruptly changed his mind at the last minute. In the talks, he repeatedly denied the red shirt claim for a new elections, saying that “elections will solve […]

30 10 2012
Kavi on Abhisit by Abhisit « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] He had repeatedly refused any negotiation and abruptly changed his mind at the last minute. In the talks, he repeatedly denied the red shirt claim for a new elections, saying that “elections will solve […]

31 10 2012
The junta’s constitution « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] premier, Abhisit Vejjajiva abruptly decided to “negotiate” with red shirts but argued against an election because he wanted to first change the […]

31 10 2012
The junta’s constitution « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] the military’s premier, Abhisit Vejjajiva abruptly decided to “negotiate” with red shirts but argued against an election because he wanted to first change the […]




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