Suthep To Face His Critics At Military-Organised Forum

Mr. Suthep Thaugsuban

(13 December) Rival political factions have agreed to meet and exchange their opposing ideas about Thailand′s future at a dialogue panel organised by the Royal Thai Armed Forces.

Mr. Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the People′s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King as Head of State (PCAD), had previously demanded that Gen. Thanasak Patimakorn, Chief of Defence Forces, grant him a private audience so that he could explain his idea of a ?People′s Council? as the solution to Thai political crisis.
 
The meeting never took place, but Gen. Thanasak′s staff later announced that the military will host an open forum in which many groups and organisations will be invited, including the PCAD.  Reports suggest that Gen. Thanasak himself will attend the forum, scheduled to be held tomorrow (14 December).
 
Other organisations invited to the dialogue panel include the newly appointed Election Committee, the Lawyers Council of Thailand, representatives of the private sector, and the Assembly for Defence of Democracy (AFDD), a group formed by prominent academics opposed toMr. Suthep′s demands of unelected People′s Council.
 
The AFDD is led by Thammasat law academic Worachet Pakeerat who has branded Mr. Suthep′s campaign  as anti-democratic, and has urged the anti-government protesters to respect the legitimacy of electoral politics by participating in the upcoming election next year.
 
Tomorrow′s forum would mark the first face-to-face meeting between the leaders of PCAD and AFDD.
 
The official leadership of the pro-government Redshirts, the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) has also been invited, but its chairwoman, Ms. Thida Thawornseth, has declined to participate. Nevertheless, she said other UDD leaders are free to attend the forum on their own.
 
Earlier today, PCAD leaders reaffirmed their stance in a press conference that their blueprint for Thailand′s "reform" must be implemented by the government before the next general election takes place. 
 
Mr. Suthep argued that Thailand′s current political system is rigged in favour of Ms. Yingluck′s faction, especially her brother former PM Thaksin Shinawatra. His solution is the formation of 400-seat People′s Council which would function as a de facto transitional government of Thailand, amending laws and restructuring the nation to eradicate Mr. Thaksin′s corrupt influence. 
 
300 members of the Council would be selected from different occupations, while other 100 would be delegated to "experts" appointed by the PCAD. 
 
Mr. Suthep said he expected the "reform" would last for 8-14 months. A new election would be allowed to take place only after the "reform" is completed.
 
He also threatened to escalate his protests if Ms. Yingluck still refuses to resign from her position as caretaker Prime Minister; Mr. Suthep had envisioned a transitional Prime Minister appointed by His Majesty the King to replace Ms. Yingluck and subsequently form the People′s Council.
 
"If the Prime Minister stubbornly clings to her position, PCAD will force her out with the power of the Great Mass of the People," Mr. Suthep told reporters, "PCAD will continue the rallies until the People′s Council is formed".
 
In the same press conference, another PCAD leader, Mr. Satit Wongnongtoey, also accused the international media of harbouring bias toward the anti-government movement. He warned that foreign correspondents working in Thailand should be careful not to end up turning themselves into tools of "Thaksin′s Regime".
 
Meanwhile, Ms. Thida, the chairwoman of the UDD, said Mr. Suthep′s call for Ms. Yingluck to resign would lead to a dangerous "power vacuum". 
 
"The Prime Minster has been tasked with the power from the majority of the people. She cannot abandon this responsibility," Ms. Thida said, "I?d like to ask the Prime Minister and her government to stay until the election date of 2 February 2014."
 
 

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