Abhisit Wastes Another Chance for Thailand Reconciliation

Abhisit Wastes Another Chance for Thailand Reconciliation

DENPASAR, Indonesia -- Six weeks after violent standoffs between Thailand's Red Shirt opposition and government forces left 89 people dead and roughly 2,000 wounded, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva seems to have learned little from the recent past and is wasting another chance to work toward a stable reconciliation in the crisis-plagued country.

The last such opportunity arose in April 2009, after the Red Shirts' protests turned violent for the first time. The subsequent crackdown resulted in 25 people killed, including five soldiers, and more than 800 others wounded. Then, too, Abhisit promised to resolve animosity between rival groups and foster reconciliation within six to eight months to pave the way for a snap election. Instead he ended up antagonizing the opposition by ignoring the recommendations of a committee he established on political and constitutional reforms. Those proposals would reinstall the system that had favored the rise of former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra's party, the Thai Rak Thai.

Abhisit quickly changed course, calling for the establishment of a new charter-drafting assembly and a referendum, while also taking a harder stance on the Red Shirts. As a result, instead of resolving its internal divisions, the country polarized even further, with the Red Shirts' gathering strength leading to this year's clashes.

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