Unsurprisingly, the red shirts have accepted Abhisit's offer that will eventually lead to new elections on November 14, but not without a list of their demands to be fulfilled before anything happens.
The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) has resolved to join Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's roadmap for reconciliation, Veera Musikhapong said after a meeting of UDD leaders on Tuesday evening.
Mr Veera, the UDD chairman, said all red-shirt leaders made the resolution unanimously because the UDD had long proposed for it. Moreover, the UDD did not want to see more deaths and injuries as a result of the political conflict.
However, the UDD, in entering the reconciliation process, wanted the prime minister to set the timeframe for House dissolution because it is within his power to do so and leave it to the Election Commission to fix the election date.
Moreover, the government must immediately show its sincerity by ending all forms of intimidation against the red shirts, he said.
"UDD accepts PM's reconciliation roadmap", Bangkok Post, May 4, 2010
Other demands include...
- Red-shirt leaders do not need an amnesty for terrorism and lese majeste charges.
- The government must stop dragging the monarchy into political conflicts.
- The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) must take over all cases involving incidents on April 10, 22 and 28.
- The government should return basic rights to the citizens such as the freedom of movement, expression and the right to know. (...)
- The DSI should also charge the yellow-shirt group, which had earlier closed Bangkok airports, on counts of terrorism and lese majeste.
- The red-shirt protesters reserve the right to continue their rally in the heart of the capital until Abhisit announces the date for House dissolution.
- The government should reopen all red-shirt media outlets and give the movement freedom of communication.
"Acceptable if...", The Nation, May 5, 2010
They have a fair point that the prime minister can not simply set the date for new elections as he has to dissolve parliament first. Also, as mentioned yesterday, section 108 of the constitution says:
Section 108. (...) The dissolution of the House of Representatives shall be made in the form of a Royal Decree in which the day for a new general election must be fixed for not less than forty-five days but not more than sixty days as from the day the House of Representatives has been dissolved and such election day must be the same throughout the Kingdom. (...)
Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand 2007, Unofficial translation
Assuming that November 14 is supposed to be election day, parliament must be dissolved between September 15 until October 1.
The only eye-catching thing for me was the refusal for an amnesty for the red shirt leaders on terrorist and lease-majesté charges. But on the other hand, the yellow shirts probably would protest heavily if their opponents would get a free pass (like the PAD themselves, as the court case against their leaders for seizing the two airports in 2008 has been countlessly postponed until today).
What's next? We are now, if we do not have yet another sudden twist, entering the definite last phase of these anti-government protests now. One issue that was missing from the red shirts answer last night was when the protesters will leave and give up the Rajaprasong rally site they have been occupying for a month now. Obviously the red leaders wanted more concrete concessions by the government before anyone goes home. It will only be a matter of time when they will disperse and by the looks of it, it will be very soon.
As for Abhisit, the ball is back on his court and it's not only up to him how this will fold out, but also his Democrat Party and the coalition partners. One might wonder why Abhisit has not talked with them before the offer? On Tuesday morning, all people (except for deputy prime minister Suthep and a few Democrat MPs) on his side were stumped, including his mentor and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai who was "not aware" of the PM's plans and opposes them, saying that he shouldn't give in to the red shirts demands and that there are other ways to the solution. Abhisit has now a lot convincing to do during the meetings with his own party and the coalition parties, that at least have partly shown their support for the roadmap (or at least the idea of it).
Also one thing that we will see appearing is who will claim victory. The red shirts will because the government has caved in to the protesters and has partly fulfilled some demands, the government will because a political solution was found with no further bloodshed. Either way, like Abhisit said "not all parties will be satisfied with this proposal," as the (surprise, surprise!) the yellow shirts have already voiced their displeasure.