Saturday, May 1, 2010

A proposal by the International Crisis Group to end Bangkok standoff

A week ago I suggested a path forward for Thailand on this blog:
It looks to me as if a mediator ought to be brought in, if only to help both sides sell any compromise election timetable to their supporters.   Is Bill Clinton available?
Today International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a "conflict risk alert" for Thailand.  The group takes as its a starting point the idea that a group of high-profile international mediators ought to be brought in.

The Crisis Group's proposal involves further steps.   Their concern is that a neutral group ought to oversee the implementation of whatever recommendations the mediators can bring both sides in the standoff to agree upon.   And beyond that, they suggest a national reconciliation parliament would be the best way to address outstanding constitutional issues.

Their complete recommendations:
What Should Be Done

The following steps should be taken urgently:
  • The creation of a high-level facilitation group of international figures. Nobel Laureate and Timor Leste President Jose Ramos Horta is already in Bangkok at his own initiative and could be joined by other figures, perhaps drawn from The Elders or from the ranks of former top senior government officials with experience in Thailand.
  • This group, which should be joined by independent Thai figures, should bring together the government and Red Shirts to encourage immediate steps to prevent violence, such as ending the military operation; the self-limitation of protests to a small, more symbolic number of people who do not disrupt life in Bangkok; and the formation of a national unity committee that pulls together people from all walks of life.
  • This committee should begin negotiations, facilitated by the international group, on an interim government of national unity and preparations for elections, although these will be controversial and should not be rushed into as quickly as demanded. The government must be led by someone from parliament but should be made up mostly of neutral, respected individuals from across society.
  • The committee should also facilitate the formation of an independent body to investigate the 10 April clashes between the security forces and Red Shirt protesters at Democracy Monument, as well as other violent incidents related to the current demonstrations.
Once the immediate crisis is defused, with a rapid return to the rule of law, political negotiations may require some time as they will involve confidence-building measures, including accountability on both sides for the violence. Politics needs to return to parliament. Thai political life will have to be refreshed with new elections and, perhaps, a new constitution to replace the country's military-influenced charter.
ICG's concern seems to be that if the country were to move into elections too quickly and the vote lacked impartial oversight, the results would likely be challenged, and the country would go right back to the cycle of alternating red-yellow mob protests.

All in all, the International Crisis Group has produced a comprehensive and intelligent, if ambitious and onerous proposal; one that aims not merely to end the standoff, but to push the "reset" button on Thai politics.

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