The streets of Bangkok may be quiet again after the Red Shirt protests earlier this year that resulted in more than 80 deaths and thousands of injuries, but the country's politics are still highly unstable. A state of emergency remains even as Prime Minsiter Abhisit Vejjajiva has proposed a "road map" to national reconciliation. The government has also filed terrorism charges against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for his alleged role in organizing the protests.
Thaksin, who was overthrown in a miltiary coup in 2006 and now lives mainly Dubai, denies funding or organizing the Red Shirt movement. Today, I had the chance to speak with former Thai foreign minister Noppadon Pattama, who is now Thaksin's legal advisor and spokesman and asked him about the former leader's connection to the movement:
Dr. Thaksin provides moral support.... He has no control over the day-to-day running of the Red Shirts. They have their own structure, their own management, their own leaders. It’s not possible for him to order anyone to stage a rally. It would be decided by the Red Shirts themselves.
Noppadon has rejected the Abhisit government's road map plan, calling instead for national peace talks between the various parties in the conflict, including Thaksin. He warned today that without meaningful reconciliation, more unrest is likely:
If the situation goes unresolved, Abhisit Vejjajiva and the government candidates will not be able to campaign in certain regions of Thailand, for example in the North and Northeast. That would be bad for democracy. The Red Shirt protesters will go and hound them, go and prevent them [from campaigning].
The sense of bitterness, the sense of hatred is still there among the red shirts because of the loss of life. They feel Abhisit ordered the army to use excessive force and violated their human rights. Unless we can settle the crisis amicably, Thailand will not have political stability. ...
We don’t want the Red Shirts to stage a third big rally in Bangkok. To prevent that, some sort of arrangement or reconciliation to be achieved. If we don’t address the hatred, I fear there will be more demonstrations in Bangkok.