The government will send a mediator to ensure talks with the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) are arranged as soon as possible, caretaker Justice Minister Sompong Amornwiwat said yesterday.
The mediator is very familiar with both sides, he said.
Sompong said this would be an opportunity for the PAD "to get involved with talks on a reasonable basis". He added that the anti-government group should abandon its occupation of Government House in order that a new administration would be able to work.
"How can peace be restored if the PAD doesn't accept any offer? Society is beginning to wonder what they really want. Talks are inevitable as a way to end the issue. They should not be allowed to continue their occupation of Government House," said Sompong, a deputy leader of the ruling People Power Party.
He called on the PAD to allow the new government time to work and enable PM-elect Somchai Wongsawat to prove himself. "Somchai has not given any indication that he is a nominee for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra although they have a family relationship," Sompong said. Somchai is a brother-in-law of Thaksin, who has jumped bail in a corruption case.
The PAD and its supporters have occupied the seat of government since late last month, forcing Cabinet members and government officials to work elsewhere.
Sompong yesterday called on the PAD to become involved in the efforts to restore peace in the country. He declined to comment on a PAD demand that the government not seek constitutional amendments. The PM-elect said that charter changes would be a matter for Parliament.
The PAD yesterday insisted that a Somchai government had no legitimacy to negotiate with it in order to end street protests. "Somchai is part of the Shinawatra family, hence he has no legitimacy and protesters will continue to demand his removal from office," PAD leader Somsak Kosaisuk said.
Somsak said Somchai's contrasting personality to that of his predecessor Samak Sundaravej was not a factor to convince the PAD to enter into negotiations with the government.
He claimed that Somchai was a remnant of the disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party.
Another PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang said volunteer guards had uncovered about 16 sticks of giant firecrackers stashed at the rally site inside Government House. Chamlong voiced suspicion that the firecrackers might have been planted to cause a disturbance.
PAD spokesman Suriyasai Katasila said Somchai ought to clarify various issues in order to establish his credibility for talks with the PAD.
The issues included how to resolve the conflict of interest between serving the Shinawatra family and serving the country and how to revoke the diplomatic passport of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and bring him back to stand trial.
Somchai has also been asked to spell out his stand on the Preah Vihear Temple, his position on the charter rewrite, and his attempts to overcome his proxy status.
Meanwhile, senior academic Prawase Wasi said Somchai should try to resolve Thailand's biggest problem of social inequity.
He said poverty and lack of fairness were still the main problems for the country, particularly for poor rural people. Somchai should use his special characteristics as a judge, such as humbleness, fairness and patience, to ask other people to work with him to resolve the issue.
Moreover, Somchai should show a sincere interest in the resolving the political conflict.
"He should be friendly in asking other people to create peace for the country instead of blaming each other. The new PM should integrate democracy from every dimension in society," said Prawase.
Somchai should try to balance society's economic, political and social perspectives. "If we can do this, I believe we could eliminate poverty within five years," he said.
Prawase called on Thai people to dream and to make a peaceful situation a reality. "We cannot use only theory or knowledge to resolve problems -we have to dream together to resolve this crisis," he added.
He said agencies and members of the public should work together to prevent the emergence of violence. This is an opportunity for the country to move forward.