Thai government exercises restraint with opposition protestors | Asia Pacific

Thai government exercises restraint with opposition protestors

Thai government exercises restraint with opposition protestors

Updated 14 January 2014, 12:56 AEDT

The protests in the Thai capital Bangkok have so far been generally good-humoured.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has vowed that the opposition will fight to the end, whatever the outcome.

So how long is the Yingluck administration prepared to exercise tolerance?

Asia Pacific asked Thailand's national security advisor to assess the Bangkok 'shutdown' so far.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Sean Boonpracong, national security advisor to the government of Thailand

BOONPRACONG: The government is pleased that it was going on pretty smoothly, that there was no violent incident. And this is a situation which the Prime Minister is most concerned about. Since this protest has started for two months, our situation has been to try to understand and to get them involved in what we call 'the process' to talk.

She (PM Yingluck) did the honourable thing, by dissolving this government in the hope that somehow, they (the Opposition) could honour, so that we could have some type of agreement and she (the PM) can get the country moving forward. And so, she probably would maintain this international approach to this type of protests and will not ramp up any type of more severe measures.

And we want them to come to the fold, so that things could go back to normal, that business could be run, and tourists would come back in normal numbers. But I would like to have some questions, if you have any.

LAM: The protest leader Suthep has vowed that the disruptions could run for the next fortnight or more. How tolerant is the administration, your government, prepared to be?

BOONPRACONG: So far, because the prime minister understands the lessons from 2010 when there was a huge loss of life, and she wants to make sure that there's plenty of restraint and you have to give credit to the police, even if they 'lose' a little bit, but for the protests in the longer duration, it won't be solving any situation. And we hope that the situation would not require any worse response. The prime minister is prepared not to wage a policy of emergency decree, which I feel is not going to make that much difference, as far as the government is concerned.

LAM: You're saying that the government is trying to maintain calm, by not moving in in a heavy-handed manner. But what if public utilities get disrupted, the Thai economy is threatened, if this situation drags on for weeks? Is your government prepared to act then?

BOONPRACONG: We are watching the situation. Naturally, those are huge cause for concern. We have forewarned and make those protest leaders come up. We have put up the police force to defend, with the army to defend those places you mentioned - the electricity, the water, the airport. And I believe so far, unless there's a more provocative side, or the PDRC (People's Democratic Reform Committee) decides to run against, then we would have to have somewhat stronger measures, but nothing to disperse the protestors violently, because they have huge sums of numbers.

LAM: And I understand that the (Yingluck) administration is also trying to extend an olive branch by offering to postpone next elections - can you tell us about that?

BOONPRACONG: Yes, we want to make sure - this has always been a pre-condition, due to eight provinces out of seventy-seven that have decided not to participate - but at least ninety percent of the rest of the provinces in the north-east and central (Thailand), want to make it happen and we have to come up with a way - legally - so that we do not conflict with the Election Act that the King signed.

So far, she (the PM) is prepared to meet the Election Commission, plus all the seventy parties tomorrow. So, hopefully, somebody could come and to satisfy some conditions that the independent organisations, which are not exactly friendly to this government, while we're trying to really go back, just to satisfy everyone withint the confines of our constitutional duties.

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