Forty-three Asian NGOs call for a “peaceful solution” to Thailand’s political crisis
by Nirmala Carvalho
Demonstrators want to see Thailand’s deputy prime minister charged for his alleged role in the 10 April violence. The government responds saying protesters’ demands are not clear. A group of Asian NGOs sends a letter to the Thai Foreign Ministry, expressing their “concern” for the situation. An Indian activist urges the parties to respect international legal standards.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – A group of 43 Asian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) wrote a letter to the Foreign Ministry of Thailand, urging the government to avoid violence to end the political crisis that has paralysed the country for the past two months. They are concerned about the tense situation, and strongly condemn the recent violence in the streets of Bangkok, calling on both sides to find “a peaceful solution”.

Leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) announced that protests would continue indefinitely. Recognisable by the red shirts worn by its members, the UDD support ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who is currently in exile. Its leaders vowed they would not stop their occupation of the capital’s commercial district unless Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban reports to the Crime Suppression Division.

Today, Mr Suthep appeared before the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to explain his role in the recent violence, but for demonstrators, that was not good enough; they want police to formally charge him.

In the meantime, the Thai government responded to the UDD’s red map, the proposal the group made yesterday to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva after the latter issued an ultimatum, saying it was not clear.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the government did its best to end the crisis. “It's not clear to me what they (the red-shirt protesters) are demanding so we can't respond to something we don't understand."

Other countries in the region are concerned by Thailand’s ongoing political crisis. Many Asian NGOs are also very worried, so much so that they wrote to the Foreign Ministry.

In their letter, the advocacy groups have called on the authorities to respect international legal standards and establish an independent panel to look into the violence of 10 April, which left 25 dead and more than 900 injured in Bangkok. Likewise, they criticised the government for blocking ten satellite TV stations and websites, which in their view constitutes a step backward in the country’s democratic development, this despite the authorities’ use of emergency law, which naturally restricts certain rights.

The Indian-based Peoples Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR) is among the 43 Asian NGOs that signed the letter. Its leader, Lenin Raghuvanshi, and those of other NGOs met UDD leaders, urging them to engage the government in peaceful talks.

“Red-shirt protest is well organised. We urged red-shirt parties to get down to non-violent talks with the government”. However, “The red-shirts insist that the government is illegal,” Raghuvanshi said.

During his talks with UDD (red-shirt) leaders, he told them that the “international community is watching very closely developments,” adding “nothing and no one will ever justify or condone the use of violence.”

NGO leaders also appealed to the Thai government to “respect international standards”.

Finally, Lenin Raghuvanshi relayed an amusing anecdote. He said that the night of their visit, they saw “a group of soldiers singing and entertaining the red-shirts”.

Still, protesters “are adamant” in their protests. For this reason, “it is important for international organisations to show them their solidarity.”