Civil war warning

"Thailand is spiralling further into political violence as protesters, counter-protesters and security forces respond tit-for-tat against attacks and provocations,"

ICG says Thailand’s political system has broken down; Rights group HRW warns of escalation if solution not found

The prolonged row between the government and red-shirt protesters could deteriorate into an “undeclared civil war”, but mediation help from other countries might avoid a slide into further violence, a top global think tank has suggested.

“The Thai political system has broken down and seems incapable of pulling the country back from the brink of widespread conflict,” the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report released on Friday.

“The stand-off in the streets of Bangkok between the government and red-shirt protesters is worsening and could deteriorate into an undeclared civil war,” it said.

The ICG also recommended forming a neutral negotiation committee with the help of international figures such as East Timor President Jose Ramos Horta, a Nobel laureate who recently visited Thailand.

New York-based Human Rights Watch also issued a statement yesterday calling for all sides to “negotiate a political solution before the situation escalates”.

“Thailand is spiralling further into political violence as protesters, counter-protesters and security forces respond tit-for-tat against attacks and provocations,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Some 70 bomb and grenade attacks have been carried out by unknown parties in Bangkok since the reds began street protests in mid-March, according to the rights group.

HRW called for an independent investigation into the deaths in clashes last month. It also expressed concern about the emergency decree and called on the government to reveal how many people have already been arrested under this law.

The rights group criticised the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), which paints itself as a non-violent movement fighting for the empowerment of Thailand’s long neglected rural and urban poor.

“Contrary to the repeated claims of various UDD leaders that their movement is non-violent, photos, video and eyewitness accounts demonstrate that many UDD security guards and protestors are armed with guns, explosives, petrol bombs, slingshots, metal clubs, knives, sharpened bamboo sticks and other weapons,” HRW said.

It highlighted the UDD’s recent raid of Chulalongkorn Hospital, which prompted widespread condemnation.

HRW accused UDD leader Nathawut Saikua of publicly urging supporters to loot and destroy high-end shopping malls if the government tries to break up their protest.

“The UDD’s claim to be a peaceful political movement falls flat when their leaders continue to advocate and use violence.”

The National Human Rights Commission, meanwhile, issued a multi-point guideline to restore peace yesterday.

It said all sides must stop violent confrontations. And the parties concerned should enter into negotiations with sincerity.

Third, if any party refused to return to the negotiation table, it should be condemned publicly. Fourth, the government must respond to inequality and other social issues cited by protesters.

The recommendations were based on talks with former prime ministers Anand Panyarachun, Banharn Silapa-archa, Chuan Leekpai, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and Somchai Wongsawat, as well as leaders of Buddhist, Islamic and Christian faiths in Thailand.

 News item Courtesy of The Nation Bangkok at www.nationmultimedia.com

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