Thai standoff may worsen to civil war: ICG
A prolonged and increasingly violent stand-off between government and red shirt protesters in Bangkok is worsening and could deteriorate into "an undeclared civil war", the International Crisis Group said.
Bangkok: A prolonged and increasingly violent stand-off between government and red shirt protesters in Bangkok is worsening and could deteriorate into "an undeclared civil war", the International Crisis Group said.
"The Thai political system has broken down and seems incapable of pulling the country back from the brink of widespread conflict," the Brussels-based conflict resolution group said in a report released late on Friday.
"The stand-off in the streets of Bangkok between the government and Red Shirt protesters is worsening and could deteriorate in undeclared civil war."
Thailand should consider help from neutral figures from the international community, drawn perhaps from Nobel peace laureates, to avoid a slide into wider violence, it said.
Clashes between the military and the red shirts, a group of mostly rural and urban poor, have killed 27 people and injured nearly 1,000 since their campaign to force early elections began seven weeks ago.
Dozens of mysterious explosions have hit the capital, including grenade attacks on April 22 in the business district that killed one and wounded scores. Bangkok anxiously awaits an army operation to eject the Red Shirts from their tent city, which could lead to a bloodbath.
The fault lines are widening between the establishment -- big business, the military brass and an educated middle class -- and the protesters, many of whom support former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a 2006 coup.
Civil society groups brought the government and the protesters together but the talks faltered over when to hold elections. The red shirts offered a 90-day timeframe, but the Prime Minister rejected that last weekend.
The crisis comes as Thailand faces its first prospect of royal succession in more than six decades.
The government has recently stepped up accusations that the red shirt movement has republican leanings -- a highly provocative claim in a country where many consider the king almost divine -- and that key figures are involved in a loose network to overthrow the monarchy.
The report recommended the creation of a high-level group of international figures, noting that Nobel Laureate and Timor Leste President Jose Ramos Horta was in Bangkok this week at his own initiative and could be joined by other figures.
The group should bring the two sides together to end the military operation and limit the protests "to a small, more symbolic number of people who do not disrupt life in Bangkok".