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Non-violence must guide police

The police decision to disperse People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protesters yesterday morning was miscalculated. The move unintentionally drew in larger crowds comprised of those who are sympathetic with the PAD. The incident could have resulted in tragedy. Police officers were seen on TV beating and stepping on protesters inside the Government House compound, while the demonstrators were forced to sit down and cover their faces, apparently to protect themselves from gas.

These images drew in those who are sympathetic to the protesters. Certain state enterprise unions threatened to strike to voice their disapproval with the police decision to use force to break up the PAD crowds. Fortunately, some 5,000 policemen were ordered to leave Government House in the afternoon.

Nobody can predict how the current stand-off between the PAD and the government will end. Local business activities have ground to a standstill. Foreigners may find it difficult to understand the situation, in which Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his government have been made to flee from their offices and seek refuge at the headquarters of the Thai armed forces. At any rate, observers are relieved that violence has been minimal over the past few days. Some political gurus say that the stand-off can drag on and people would accept that just as long as there is no violence and no moves are made to set off a violent incident. Nobody wants to see Thais beating Thais.

Over the past few days, the police have earned praise for their tolerance. They had been tolerant and worked with the PAD crowds in a peaceful manner until yesterday morning.

Fortunately, the police decided to remove its staff from Government House promptly after it sensed that the situation could have triggered unforeseeable consequences.

While the stand-off is still going on, the situation this morning should serve as a lesson that all sides should avoid violence at all cost.


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