The Thai Prime Minister made a gesture to the protest movement but it is unlikely to result in talks. Both sides inhabit different worlds. It increasingly looks like Thailand is facing a political crisis. Key progressive leader, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, on Sunday, suggested talks may be possible if the Prime Minister resigned and if those arrested so far in connection with the protests were released.
The Thai government revoked the state of severe emergency declared in Bangkok effective at midday on Thursday, over a week after the measure came into force. The move followed a television address by the Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha on Wednesday night and a show of strength from the student-led protest movement, at the same time, which has left Thailand still engulfed in an unresolved and growing political crisis.
The Thai Prime Minister, in an effort to defuse the escalating crisis in the kingdom, has revoked from midday on Thursday, the state of severe emergency declared early on Thursday morning last the 15th October.
The PM promised to take the course of action in a TV address to the nation on Wednesday night when a large crowd of student-led anti-government protesters again swarmed into the streets of Bangkok pushing police lines back towards Government House.
3-day ultimatum given on Wednesday night
There, after 9 pm on Wednesday, they presented the Head of the Metropolitan Police in Bangkok, Police Lieutenant General Phukphong Phongpetra a resignation letter and ultimatum to which they demanded that the prime minister comply within 3 days.
There are fears that the ongoing protests, if not resolved, may trigger a wider clash between a large conservative segment of the Thai population who are in a state of shock at the demands put forward by the younger generation protest leaders for the reform of the monarchy as well as the removal of General Prayut as Prime Minister and a new constitution.
Royalist groups activate with fears that a counter-protest movement may plunge the country into chaos
Large groups of royalist protesters have now been seen both on Wednesday and Thursday in provinces throughout Thailand. The concern is that a counter-protest movement may develop, plunging the country further into crisis.
Police are already investigating an incident at Ramkhamhaeng University where it is alleged that anti-government protesters were the target of an assault on Wednesday before campus authorities ordered both groups from the precincts.
Up to 20,000 yellow shirt protesters turned out in Songkhla on Wednesday while rallies in support of the royal institution were also seen in other provinces including one in Phetchaburi on Thursday which saw a crowd of over 2,000 people participating.
There are reports that many royalist supporters are wary of coming forward now sensing that the situation could easily lead to a conflagration which would not be helpful to the kingdom, at this time.
Taya Teepsuwan, the wife of Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan and a former activist with the People’s Democratic Reform Committee which helped provoke the last coup, took to Twitter, in recent days, to suggests that no one was, at this time, in favour of political rallies in Thailand with the country facing an emergency on many fronts.
The former leader of the PDRC in 2013 and 2014, Suthep Thaugsuban, said this: ‘I respect, admire and support those who come out to protect the monarchy in many provinces. I salute them for their great hearts that put nation, religion and the monarchy above all else.’
The coup in 2014 was precipitated when two rival protest groups including the PDRC threatened to shut down Bangkok and other parts of the kingdom.
Cancellation of the state of severe emergency a gesture, PM asks for a ‘sincere’ response
On Wednesday night, the prime minister appealed to the protesters to avail of the special parliamentary session that has been summoned for next week to redress their grievances and deal with the situation.
The PM held out his offer to cancel the state of emergency as a gesture towards resolving the standoff.
‘I will make the first move to de-escalate this situation. I am currently preparing to lift the state of severe emergency in Bangkok and will do so promptly if there are no violent incidents,’ he said in his televised statement. ‘I ask the protesters to reciprocate with sincerity, to turn down the volume on hateful and divisive talk.’
General Prayut was referring to the demands by the student-led movement for monarchical reform which has strengthened since the state of severe emergency was called to deal with unrest last week which royalist supporters perceived as an assault on the monarchy when Her Majesty, the Queen’s car was briefly waylaid by the protesters near Government House on Wednesday the 14th October.
Calls on protesters to work within parliament to resolve matters from Prayut and university deans
On Wednesday also, four deans of top Thai universities called for the reverse of the emergency measures describing them as unconstitutional while also urging both sides to discuss the situation in parliament.
On Wednesday night, General Prayut echoed this stance when he said: ‘The only way to a lasting solution for all sides that is fair for those on the streets as well as for the many millions who choose not to go on the streets, is to discuss and resolve these differences through the parliamentary process.’
Protesters pushing for the Prime Minister to go
However, it is understood that the prime minister’s effort at placation is unlikely to be met with a positive response from the protesters. They are likely to continue to insist on his removal as a precursor to talks.
On Sunday, the Progressive Movement leader, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, former leader of the Future Forward Party in parliament, suggested that the resignation of the premier, the revocation of the state of severe emergency in Bangkok and the release of arrested protesters may form the basis for opening a dialogue although it is still very much unclear who represents this movement.