In a special parliamentary session, Thailand’s Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has stood by the government’s recent measures to end street protests and acts of violence by anti-government protestors.
The Thai premier justified his decision to deploy the army in a joint parliamentary session on Wednesday
The joint parliamentary session was called in the wake of recent anti-government violence on the streets of the Thai capital Bangkok that led to Prime Minister Abhisit declaring a state of emergency and deploying the army to quell acts of random violence in the capital.
Backing the army’s operation, the prime minister dismissed claims by red-shirted anti-government protestors -- largely supporters of the ousted former Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra -- that soldiers had shot demonstrators dead.
He said that although two people had been reported killed, they were both local people who had died in fights with the protesters.
Steering towards an easing of tensions
Sunai Pasuk, a representative of the US-based Human Rights Watch, said on Wednesday that Abhisit appeared to be trying to steer debate towards an easing of tensions by allowing opposition parties to voice their grievances.
“Abhisit is trying to show that he can deliver a higher quality of politics -- showing greater transparency -- and show a more open-minded approach in dealing with the opposition. The idea of having a joint parliamentary session today is to let off steam and treat the opposition with respect.
Abhisit also proposed amnesties for several banned politicians and reforms to the constitution.
Thitinan Pongsudirak, a political scientist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, said the government should consider calling fresh elections. “If they are unable to provide some kind of relief to the tension and disenchantment, then we will see the Red Shirts again. This polarisation will become violent and confrontational with the potential to degenerate into some kind of insurrection and insurgency.”
Fresh rallies expected outside Bangkok
Anti-government protestors are reportedly already planning fresh rallies outside of Bangkok. Having been forced off the streets of the capital when the prime minister imposed a state of emergency, they are moving out to nearby provinces where they want to gather support from the largely working-class and rural populations.
Last week in Bangkok, the red-shirted protesters met resistance from local residents -- many of whom are middle-class supporters of the ruling Democrat Party.
“They’re going to start again but not in Bangkok where the mood is against them,” explained Sunai. “All those low income, not so well-to-do communities are establishing their strongholds and squeezing in from the outside. That’s their strategy.
The political maelstrom is thought to be largely driven by Thaksin Shinawatra, who despite being overseas is in constant contact with his supporters. The government recently issued an international warrant for his arrest in conjunction with the civil disobedience.