'Thailand election must go ahead'

'Thailand election must go ahead'

THAILAND - Suggestions and promises filled a meeting room in the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre yesterday, where most participants said the best way to solve the political crisis was to hold a general election on February 2 next year.

In the government-hosted forum to find solutions to end the current impasse, politicians, academics and red-shirt leaders also agreed that talks on reforms should continue to ease groups' differences over the long-term.

Joining the forum were representatives from seven major business organisations, the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD or red shirts), the Assembly for the Defence of Democracy (AFDD), academics, permanent secretaries, police and military officers, state enterprise employees, the media, plus political parties and senators.

However, two key groups calling for change - the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and Democrat Party - did not attend this event.

PDRC leader Sathit Wongnongtoey announced yesterday that the group would start a pre-election reform campaign on Monday and vowed that the group would not to soften its stance or seek any negotiations with the government.

At the forum yesterday, Nikorn Chamnong, an adviser to Chart Thai Pattana, said the party would join the election, as it shared the international conviction that nothing is better than returning power to the people. Yet, the party also saw the need for further talks, to resolve long-standing differences on political ideals.

Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Phonghtep Thepkanjana expressed disappointment that the PDRC opted out of the forum but said comprehensive reform would take years to complete. However, it would take only two years to set a reform mechanism in place, for a transparent and fair political system and elections.

He agreed with academics' proposals that politicians ratify the will to reform, before joining the election. Any party winning the poll would have to carry out the reform process. After two years in office, the government would then dissolve the House and call a new election.

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