Thai ballot will not end the need for dialogue, peace expert says

The need for genuine dialogue leading to national reform will be even greater after tomorrow's election, no matter what happens, said well-known peace expert Gothom Arya.

He said the fact that the election is going ahead as scheduled did not mean caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra would "win", or that the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) would "lose", as both sides still needed to talk.

Gothom dismissed the idea that there is no impartial person left in the Kingdom capable of brokering dialogue and negotiation.

He said that if both sides truly recognised the need to talk, then it would not be difficult.

He suggested that each party to the conflict nominate one person to represent the group and engage in dialogue. The person chosen, he said, must be acceptable to the other side.

Then the two representatives will together choose another person, making it a total of three, to mediate or facilitate the talks and break any deadlocks.

"If they don't really want to talk, even 10 impartial persons can't make them talk." Gothom added that PDRC secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban was a veteran politician with 30 years of experience who should understand the need to negotiate.

Someone from the South from the government's side, such as former red-shirt co-leader Veerakarn Musikapong, who for a long time was a co-member of the Democrat Party with Suthep, should be able to talk with the PDRC chief, Gothom said.

The topic of the dialogue should be focused on how to go about launching the national reform process, and not about the reform goals.

If both sides are unwilling to come to the negotiating table, the general public will have to pile more pressure onto both sides, Gothom said.

He expects tomorrow's election to be peaceful. He said the 99,000 polling units in the country will be beyond the ability of the PDRC to block and he believes the group will not try to block voters from exercising their electoral rights as it did during advance polls last weekend, except in some areas with hard-core members.

As a former election commissioner, Gothom added that the Election Commission need not take months to finish holding new rounds of voting in affected areas.