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THAILAND – All sides, adopt peaceful means to find common path out of crisis thailand clashes 2010

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letter was sent to the Government and the United Front for Democracy
against Dictatorship (UDD) on April 19 by 16 peoples' organisations.

red_shirts_clash_thai_security_forces.jpgThis letter was sent to the Government and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) on April 19 by 16 peoples' organisations.

The NGOs include: Newspaper Reporters Association of Thailand;  Office of Peace and Governance, King Prajadhipok Institute; Research Centre for Peace Building, Mahidol University; NGO Coordinating Committee for Development (NGO-COD); Stop Hurting Thailand Network;  Peace Network; Peoples' Network Against Civil War; Academics for Democracy Group; Volunteers Network; May '92 Heroes' Relatives Network; Buddhika Network; Thai Communities Foundation; Thai Attentive Student Group; Thammasat University Students Organization; Youth for Peace Group; Volunteer Centre, Thammasat University.

(Bangkok, 19 April 2010) The violent outbreak that occurred on 10 April, 2010, which resulted in the deaths of 16 protesters and six soldiers and injuries to over 800 people, represents losses that pitch Thailand deeper into a crisis of violence and divisions.

Before we head further in that direction, we, 16 people's organizations whose names are listed below, would like to appeal to all sides to help change the course of Thailand away from catastrophic confrontation towards peaceful means and negotiations in order to resolve the conflict and lead Thailand out of the crisis.  We would like to propose the following.

1.        Let the loss of lives and blood on 10 April be a lesson to all that violence is not the path that will lead Thailand out of the crisis.  It will instead worsen the conflict and therefore make reconciliation among the Thai people harder to achieve.  The experience of other countries and in Thailand shows that the use of force to end a protest, or to oust protesters from an area, can never achieve success without bloodshed if there are tens of thousands of protesters involved, no matter how much care is taken to avoid it.  In Thailand particularly, where unknown groups of people were involved in the violence, the bloodshed will be more severe and the situation could worsen.  The protesters' occupation of Ratchaprasong Intersection needs to be resolved, but not by the use of force to disperse the gathering, which would lead to greater loss of life and could degenerate into a civil war.  On the protesters' side, there must be a commitment to non-violence and no weapons should be allowed at the rally sites.

2.       Both sides should take a step back in order to change course and avoid total disaster, and should instead adopt peaceful means to resolve the conflict.  The Government should step back by revoking the State of Emergency, and the Red Shirt peopleshouldstep back by moving their camp from Ratchaprasong Intersection to another area, or at least by providing space for businesses in the area, which include not only big companies but also small traders and workers who depend on their daily earnings for a living, to operate normally and reduce their losses.  All sides should recognize that politics in the democratic system means "winning the people's heart" not the use of force or coercion.  Taking a step back to avoid further bloodshed does not mean a defeat, but instead a victory over people's hearts as well as a political advantage.  The side that agrees to step back first will gain political legitimacy and cause the other side to do the same.  Thus Thailand will have another chance to find solutions to the conflict without having to sacrifice an exchange of lives.

3.       Both sides should resort to negotiations and compromise to find solutions to the conflict.  In the past negotiations, both sides have agreed that the political crisis and the division among the Thai people should end with the next election.  The only differencewas when the election should take place.  The current parliament has one year and eight months remaining of its term.  If the election could be brought forwardto end the conflict, this should bea worthypath.  Since The Government has already agreed to an early election, the Red Shirt people should also make a compromise on their time frame.  They should recognize that many other people do not agree with a parliamentary dissolution and there are other opinions that both sides should take into consideration.  Therefore, both sides should make concessions and find a time frame that is acceptable to all sides.  In a democracy, no one side can ever get 100% of what they want.  All the political parties in the parliament, especially the opposition Phuea Thai Party and those in the Government coalition, should make use of parliamentary mechanisms and negotiations in order to propose solutions for the country as well.

4.       Both sides should stop presenting one-sided information.   In a polarized society such as Thailand today, one-sided informationthat aims only to give legitimacy to one's own side will only fuel hatred and further entrench divisions among the country's citizens.

5.       The military must not stage another coup d'état, which would deepen the crisis and would set back for decades the democracy that all sides have been trying to nurture and improve upon.  Moreover, the military would have lost its legitimate role as law and order enforcers under the Government and become a direct opponent to the people. The resistance that would ensue would lead to the worst chaos befalling the country.  From now on, all Thai people must learn to resolve problems by democratic means only.

Let the past losses be a lesson for Thai society that violence and crackdowns do not constitute resolutions for these problems.  Democracy means that all must be able to live together with differences, not eliminating each other.  If the Thai society adheres to peaceful and democratic means, we will be able to avert disaster and get back on the path out of the crisis without further bloodshed.  Thailand's democracy has come a long way; if we are patient we can surely get past the current crisis, which many countries have had to go through to achieve stable democracy.  When we get through this crisis, it will be a victory for the country, for all sides and for us all.