Friday, 4 February 2011

Time for cool heads and common sense

via CAAI

Published: 3/02/2011
The PAD's latest demand on the government shows the group's increasing unreasonableness. In order to deal effectively with the Cambodian government on the fate of its two colleagues and other pending issues, the group, the government and the people in general must speak in single voice and move in the same direction - from a position of strength and in peaceful manner

Anyone with a modicum of wisdom realises that the demand of the People’s Alliance for Democracy - that the Abhisit government must secure the release of the two convicted Thais held in a Cambodian jail by Saturday is both impracticable and unreasonable.

And the PAD leaders must realise it too, yet they still made the demand anyway. Not only that, they also threatened to take tougher action against the government, without being specific, if the demand was not met within the Feb 5 deadline.

Then, what is in the minds of the PAD leaders? Do they really want their two colleagues to be released in three days? Or they have another, hidden agenda?

What options does the government have up its sleeve to force the Cambodian government, or, to be more specific, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen since he is the only one who has the real say in Cambodia, to release the two Thais, Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary Ratree Pipattanapaiboon?

Flexing more Thai military muscle at the Thai-Cambodian border, or sending an F16 jetfighter into Cambodian airspace as earlier suggested by Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang, a co-leader of the PAD? Sending more Thai troops and all the big guns to the border as a show of force, in addition to the reinforcements already deployed there? Or using force to flush out Cambodian soldiers and civilians allegedly encroaching on territory claimed by Thailand, as demanded by the PAD?

None of these confrontational options will be accepted by the government, as they would only worsen the already tense situation and, worse, pose a risk of armed conflict - which would benefit either country.

A sensible approach to the problem is to lodge an appeal against the verdict, but the process will take time. A royal pardon could also be sought for the two. But none of this is possible within the three-day deadline and can only be done through negotiations.

The government’s decision to send Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya to Phnom Penh for talks is an approach in the right direction. The two sides need to talk, to sort out their differences on the border, including the 4.6 square kilometres surrounding the old Preah Vihear temple which is at the centre of the dispute, and the fate of the two Thais.

The flexing of military might is totally unnecessary and would only tend to escalate the tension.

The ongoing PAD rally to put pressure on the Abhisit government will not help improve the situation. Nor will the nationalist card being played by the group succeed in attracting more support for its cause.

The fact is that many of its former supporters have now distanced themselves from the group, not because they are Democrat supporters but rather because they have lost confidence and trust in movement due to the misguided objectives of its leaders.

And the nationalist card is one of the misguided objectives.

Hence, it should not be surprising that the mass protest expected by the PAD last weekend did not materialise. It is doubtful that any mass PAD protest will happen after the expiration of the three-day deadline.

But numbers may not matter as much as the spirit of its supporters. What tougher action do the PAD leaders have in mind to to put more pressure on the government after the deadline lapses? I only hope and pray that common sense prevails among the PAD leaders and that they will not become so desperate that they repeat their past serious mistakes - which included the occupation of Government House and Suvarnabhumi and Don Muieang airports.

The PAD rally has, so far, been peaceful, although its closure of parts of Ratchadamnoen Avenue has caused inconvenience to a lot of people. Hopefully, it will remain so.

But for the benefit of all concerned, it is better than the PAD and its ally, the Thai Patriots Network, call off this rally and join hands with the government as a unified force to put pressure on Cambodia, to bring it to the negotiating table where they can settle their differences.

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