THAILAND - Thailand's caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday dismissed red-shirts' rhetoric of a division of the country and asked them to exercise restraint, as Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha warned the country risked sliding into civil war due to the ongoing political rift.
Meanwhile, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul turned to the United Nations for possible help with Thailand's impasse.
The government wishes to have a dialogue with anti-government protesters, rather than resorting to violence to end the conflict, Yingluck told reporters in the northern province of Chiang Rai yesterday.
"We are all suffering from the conflict. The social divide is leading to violence, causing loss of lives," she said.
Two M-79 grenades were fired last night at a police-owned compound on Vibhavadi Road where the government's Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order is located, while a third was fired into the compound of the adjacent Thai PBS TV station. There were no casualties. One of the grenades that landed in the compound of the Royal Thai Police Sports Club did not explode, while the one fired into the Thai PBS compound hit the parking area and damaged some vehicles. As of press time, it was still not known which site was the real target of the attack.
Political violence since last November has caused 22 deaths, including children, and injured more than 700 people.
The People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) led by former opposition politician Suthep Thaugsuban continues to demand Yingluck step down and hand power to an interim government and an unelected "People's Council" to reform the country.
Pro-government red-shirt groups in the north and northeast have vowed to move against the PDRC. Some want the country to be partitioned, with the current government running its strongholds in the north and northeast - with Chiang Mai or Khon Kaen as its capital - while Bangkok and the South would be given to the elite establishment, opposition Democrat Party and PDRC.
Security officials said people on the different sides of the dispute have very different political ideas, making it difficult to achieve a compromise, and are likely to take up weapons against each other.
In a short message to an AFP reporter in response to a question, General Prayuth said: "Absolutely, there will be civil war if all sides do not respect the rules. The military will do everything for the country and the people... not for a particular side."
Both protest leaders and government leaders bear "responsibility for the losses", Prayuth wrote, a day after warning in a rare televised speech that the country risked "collapse" unless it pulled back from the brink.
Later, Prayuth, in his capacity as deputy director of Internal Security Operations Command, instructed provincial governors to boost security.
Surapong said he would seek advice from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on how to end the political conflict.
"I called UN Secretary General Ban [yesterday] morning to consult on the matter and will send an official invitation to him later," he said. "I think he will agree with us." The UN should step in to intervene in the situation in Thailand before it develops into a critical stage.
"Abhisit Vejjajiva is worried the election would not be free and fair; the UN has facilities to hold free and fair elections," Surapong said, adding nobody should consider such a UN role as intervention in domestic affairs.