(ข้อความข่าว ลงใน นสพ. เดอะเนชั่น (The Nation) ฉบับวันที่ 17 กันยายน 2549 (17 September 2006) หน้า 2A)
Bowing out is the only way to avoid dividing the country, panel concludes.
Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is at the root of the continuing political crisis and has no other choice but to bow out of politics for the good of the country, an academic seminar has concluded.
"The prime minister is the at the centre of all conflict in society [today]," social activist Paiboon Wattanasiritham said during the seminar on the current political crisis, organised by the The Nation and Krungthep Turakij newspapers on Thursday.
"If only he could see this, he would know that he should address the whole nation [and promise] he will not assume the premiership, even if his Thai Rak Thai Party wins the next election," Paiboon said.
The Thaksin government regards those who do not support it as enemies. If it maintains this view, peace and unity will never return to the country, Paiboon said.
To solve the conflict, peaceful means are needed, and the prime minister should be the first person to abide by this principle, he said.
Political scientist Arong Suthasart said the crisis was near boiling point, and the polarisation of pro- and anti-Thaksin groups nationwide could result in a violent clash in the near future.
"If [such an] incident happens, it will be a dark day for Thailand's democracy," he said.
Thaksin should bow out of politics, Arong said. If he insisted on assuming the premiership for another term, his opponents would never stop, which might pave the way for a conclusion nobody wants to see - military intervention.
Pasuk Pongpaichit , a Chulalongkorn University economist, said the crisis grew from the fact that a handful of business tycoons had controlled and exploited state power and government schemes in their own interests for five years.
Other interest groups had failed to gain any influence within this elite inner circle for so long that they could no longer tolerate the situation, she said.
Thaksin was clever to exploit his popularity among rural voters, who desperately need help to raise their living standards, with spending-sprees and populist policies, she said.
However, all of society had finally learnt a lesson that rich leaders cannot succeed in solving national problems because they do not want change that undermines their own prosperity, Pasuk added.
Social critic Thienchai Wongchaisuwan believed the current impasse would not be resolved as long as Thaksin - the real cause of the crisis - was still in politics.
"Thaksin is a stubborn premier who doesn't understand how to take a step back," he said.
Thienchai blamed the media and the Thai people for keeping Thaksin in power. "The media now is full of rubbish," he said, adding that it failed to educate people about reining in corrupt politicians.
"Thais never learn from the mistakes of the past [and still] pick evil leaders, leading to the ruin of the country," he said.
Thienchai insisted media reform was urgently needed to build a strong society, and corrupt politicians had to be weeded out
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