The country cannot bow to what is essentially an act of terrorism. But Mr Somchai and his cabinet must realise that it is their complete ineptitude – selfishness in some cases – that gives life to the PAD. COMMENTARY By Atiya Achakulwisut
Atiya Achakulwisut is Editorial Pages Editor, Bangkok Post.
The country has been put under a state of siege by the lawless People’s Alliance for Democracy.
In the streets, people are shooting at one another. Bombs are going off. People are being killed. Angry tourists are stranded at the hijacked Suvarnabhumi airport worrying about a lost Thanksgiving family reunion.
And a nervous-looking Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat goes on TV to tell us that he has received a set of decorations from the Peruvian government!
What a thoughtless, tactless, unintelligent move from a country’s leader.
If PM Somchai – who appeared timid and haggard, more like an old turkey about to be slaughtered than an internal security chief – wanted to publicly turn down Gen Anupong Paojinda’s recommendation that he dissolve the House to prevent the political crisis from boiling over (if it hasn’t already!), why couldn’t he say so in a clear and coherent manner?
He could have taken the opportunity to speak to the Thai public and the international community – who have been holding their collective breath for a few days after the airport siege and desperately need to exhale – about how he would proceed to defuse the situation.
Instead, he went on and on about the mundane issue of what his government has achieved but failed to advertise. Does anyone want to know more about the government’s dust-free streets project now?
I can sympathise with people who accuse Mr Somchai of being a puppet of his famous brother-in-law. He does look like a puppet, after all. The country is on the brink of a civil war and he had nothing to offer but the awkward stuttering over a poorly-prepared script which did not address the serious issue at hand.
As people are literally being beaten to death because of the colour of their shirts or their presumed association, the premier told Thais to play the proud and generous host to expatriates during the upcoming Asean summit, so that the world may appreciate our ability and potential.
Did the PM just go to Peru, or to outer space? Doesn’t he realise there might be no Asean summit unless he puts his brains to work and frees Suvarnabhumi from the siege?
I can’t call on PM Somchai to resign now, as it would mean bowing to what is essentially tantamount to an act of terrorism by the protesters. The PAD can’t be allowed to enjoy any sense of triumph after its damaging aggression at the airport and they must be taken into account for their treacherous act.
However, Mr Somchai and his cabinet must realise that it is their complete ineptitude – selfishness in some cases – that gives life to the PAD. It is their flaws which give the PAD a reason to exist. They are the “government.” They are here to “govern” the country”, not to outwit the PAD at all costs.
It can be argued that if only they had tried to do their jobs properly and not functioned only as a PAD rival, things would not have deteriorated so badly.
In a perfect-world scenario, a government that couldn’t defend its own seat of power – let alone an airport – from protesters, would have offered its resignation. To put all the blame on Army chief Anupong Paojinda is beside the point, they have been in charge of the country all the time. In Thailand, however, the democratic etiquette has yet to take root. We are hacking one another to death to defend our version of democracy after all.
At this point, I don’t think the government or the PAD cares how much damage they would do to the country and the people, with their high-stakes battle of wills. An appeal on altruistic grounds would thus be useless.
On a practical basis, though, both sides must realise that they can’t raise the stakes higher from now on, nor can they sustain it. Neither of them has a trump card or an endgame in sight. Neither the government nor the PAD can have a decisive victory.
Under the situation, both sides would have to end up at the negotiating table even after they unleash an all-out war and let both red- and yellow-shirted Thai blood flood the country.
The question is, would they rather get down to talk now and save an unnecessary tragedy, or plough on and face the monstrosity of their choice?
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