New network committed to bringing warring Thai parties together

Three days before the election, the Reform Now Network (RNN) has been set up with the hope of finding a solution to the current political stalemate. The network is one of many reform forums created during this time of conflict.

The network is different from other forums, as it acknowledges that both the anti- and pro-government groups have valid viewpoints. Since the two groups seem to share similar ideas on reforms, the network believes talks between them are possible.

However, the network wants talks between people in the two groups, not the main political figures.

Chaiwat Satha-Anand, a professor at Thammasat University and a part of the network, said: "A dialogue should not include key stakeholders such as [former PM] Thaksin [Shinawatra], Yingluck and Suthep [Thaugsuban] , but we will instead use the majority's voice to push for reform and pull all the stakeholders to get involved."

As for the upcoming February 2 elections, Chaiwat said, "The People's Democratic Reform Committee [PDRC] is urging people not to vote and the Pheu Thai Party is trying to encourage people to cast their ballots.

"It is now the EC's duty to count the invalid ballots, and those who cast a 'no vote' to see how many disagreed with this election. In the past four years, there were 1.3 million invalid ballots and 690,000 people cast a 'no vote'."

Yesterday, the network held a press conference involving representatives from 60 professional sectors in Thailand, including academia, business, community, reform and development.

Among the 60 were Pheu Thai's Jarupan Kuldiloke and Democrat Rachada Dhnadirek, which marked the first press conference where the opposing parties shared the same stage.

Buntoon Sedsirot, director of the Good Governance for Social Development and the Environment Institute and a part of the network, underlined its goals: "To stop violence between people with different political opinions by defusing the 'us versus them' mentality; to start a dialogue for a solution based on national interest; and, to move reform forward immediately by setting up this neutral participatory space."

Buntoon added that the network is planning to organise a workshop with Philippines, Libya and Tunisia to discuss solutions to the current political situation in Thailand.

At the press conference, the network also invited those directly affected by the political instability. Pansak Srithep, whose 17-year-old son Samaphan Srithep was killed during the 2010 political violence, said that he would take part in the elections but would not vote for Pheu Thai because he disagreed with the blanket amnesty bill.

Ratchapol Kraijirachote, managing director at Centre One department store at the Victory Monument, said his business was affected and he wants the governing body to prevent any further conflicts. "I don't want to call the people who die for their cause as heroes, I would prefer to call those who protect the people as heroes."

More about
bangkok protests