With the red-shirted demonstrators ratcheting up the tension by closing off major roads and causing severe traffic gridlocks all around Bangkok, people are now holding their breath over what their so-called “final showdown” will turn out to be.
The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) has given one elder statesman, two other privy council members and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva an ultimatum to resign. Concern is mounting in every quarter that violence may break out since the Red Shirts’ ultimatum has been met with silence from the three royal advisers and a flat rejection from the prime minister.
Although the gathering has been peaceful until now, chances that the protest will turn ugly remain very high. UDD leaders have taken turns on the stage to deliver highly provocative allegations against Gen Prem Tinsulanonda and the government. Ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has helped add fuel to the fire by delivering live video speeches from unknown locations, urging more people to join the protest. Meanwhile, his ex-wife and three children have left the country.
The UDD leaders, who have repeatedly said that their demonstration will be peaceful, have no way of guaranteeing their political activity will remain so, with close to 100,000 red-shirted supporters spreading out into the capital.
While the majority of the red shirts have shown they are for peaceful change, some hot-headed elements have already demonstrated they are prepared to go beyond what is lawful to achieve their aims. Tuesday’s attack on the prime minister’s car by a group of UDD protesters in Pattaya is one example. Another is yesterday’s closure of all roads leading to Victory Monument, which caused major disruption to the work at Ramathibodi, Rajavithi and Phra Mongkut Klao hospitals.
The UDD leaders insist they did not have anything to do with these reckless acts and that any untoward incident could only be blamed on the government. This logic is unacceptable. It is the UDD which has brought the people out to support its power game and it is the UDD leaders who have kept fuelling the crowd’s anger through relentless attacks on the three privy councillors and the government.
It is unknown at this stage how the UDD rally will end as its leaders and their boss in self-exile are trying to rush for a conclusion today, out of fear that the campaign may fizzle out if their supporters return home for the Songkran holiday. Let us hope that common sense and cool heads prevail and no more blood is shed in this long-standing conflict. Thailand and its people have suffered more than enough in this high-profile power struggle played out in the name of democracy. If all sides really care for the country, the monarchy and the people, as they so frequently preach, they must act now to stop the chaos.
It is more than obvious that the goal the red shirts are pushing for will not resolve the conflict. What will Thaksin and his cronies achieve if he and his group win this showdown? The absence of Gen Prem from the Privy Council and the Democrat party from government will not mean the conflict is over.
It is necessary that all parties concerned start thinking seriously as to how they can bring the country and its people out of the present quagmire. For this to happen, every one of them must leave their self-interests behind. Apparently this is too much to ask of our politicians, particularly those in the red-shirt wing, who are obsessed with their power struggle at the moment.
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