Asean to offer advice on ongoing Thai political crisis

BANGKOK - ASEAN countries will soon be issuing a statement to express their concern over the ongoing political crisis as well as their wish for Thailand to hold an election, caretaker Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said yesterday.

He explained that most governments in the region believed that a new round of election would lead to reconciliation.

Surapong said he endorsed a draft of the statement prepared by his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa.

The statement was prepared on behalf of Myanmar, which is chairing the grouping this year, and has been sent to other ASEAN countries for endorsement.

The statement will reflect ASEAN's concern about Thailand's political situation and their wish to see the problems solved through dialogue and in a democratic way, he said, pointing out that they all wanted to see an election as they believe it would offer a way out of the ongoing turmoil.

It is rare for Thailand to allow ASEAN countries to intervene or comment on domestic affairs.

Surapong said that with the ASEAN Economic Community due to kick off next year, the grouping's image could get affected if Thailand's problems were not solved in time. Thailand, which previously played a key role in the group, has had to take a back seat due to the internal conflicts.

Hence, Surapong, who is also chief adviser to the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO), said he wanted anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva - who are part of the same group - to sit down and talk about when an election should be held. He said they should also stop blaming other political parties for creating problems.

The Election Commission (EC) held a meeting with political parties on Tuesday. The commission had put three dates on the table: July 20, August 17 and September 14.

EC secretary general Puchong Nutrawong said yesterday that the commission agreed with political parties to hold the elections on July 20, but would first schedule a meeting with the government next Wednesday to discuss the issue. The caretaker PM's secretary-general, Suranand Vejjajiva, accepted the invitation.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai Party backed CAPO's call for an election, with the party spokesman saying yesterday that the party believes the poll should be held in the next 45 to 60 days.

The Democrat Party, which did not send a representative to the EC meeting citing security concerns, said it only wanted elections to take place in peaceful circumstances.

However, the Suthep-led People's Democratic Reform Committee has announced that it would obstruct the election because it wanted national reforms to be put in place first.

Suratin Picharn, leader of the New Democracy Party, met caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the Office of the Permanent Secretary of Defence yesterday to present her with flowers and sweetmeats.

He was visiting on behalf of 32 smaller political parties and encouraged her government to propose an election decree either for June 15 or June 22 as the smaller parties wanted people to exercise their voting rights as soon as possible.