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PAD moderates its demands

September 23rd, 2008 · No Comments

GREG LOWE in Bangkok

Anti-government protestors weakened their political demands yesterday in a move welcomed by Thailand’s major parties. But more detail is needed for informed debate, said an analyst.

The People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has occupied Government House since August 26, demanding the ouster of the ruling People Power Party (PPP). It accuses PPP of being a proxy for former-PM Thaksin Shinawtra, who was deposed in a military coup two years ago.

The movement previously proposed an anti-democratic “new politics”, where 70 per cent of MPs would be appointed and 30 per cent elected by popular vote. But yesterday it said that all MPs should be elected, half from nationwide constituencies, and the rest from different professions.

While PAD seemed to be moving towards compromise its proposals need further clarification, said a Bangkok-based analyst.

“It’s not clear just how different the new proposal is, in particular who selects and elects the professional candidates,” he said. “PAD needs to provide more precise details on this. Though overall it looks as though the high level negotiations, started since Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat was elected last week, may bear some fruit.”

The opposition Democrat Party welcomed the fact that there is a live debate on political, but said any final decision must be left to the electorate.

“There are problems with the present political system, and the causes of the present crisis stem from many rule of law institutions being subverted by the government in power,” said Democrat spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks. “Any attempt to try to rectify this through a participatory political reform process is a welcome move, but the shape and form that [the new system] takes must be decided by the people.”

Issues such as press freedom and individual rights must be enshrined in, and upheld by, the law, he said.

PPP agreed that the new outline was a positive step. “It is a good start for public debate about the proposals, and we have to open out minds and listen to what they [PAD] say,” said PPP spokesman Kuthep Saikrachang. “But direct election is the heart of democracy, and democracy without this is not practical.”

PM Somchai said last night that he has selected the new cabinet, pending royal endorsement. He would not comment on the line-up, but confirmed it included private sector appointees.

A poll published by Abac Poll Research Centre yesterday, which surveyed 2,716 people living in Bangkok, showed that 87 per cent believed strong cabinet with ministers appointed on merit would make important steps towards resolving the political crisis.

Three-out-of-four people see PM Somchai as a moderate. Around 63 per cent believe he would put his family and friends first, and the country’s needs second. The same number said they were stressed by the current situation, and that the public needed to take a more direct involvement in politics.

Mr Somchai is the brother-in-law of Mr Thaksin. He replaces former-PM Samak Sundaravej, who was sacked by the Constitutional Court in September over a conflict of interest for payments he received as a TV chef.

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