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President of the Thailand Development Research Institute, an independent think tank in Bangkok
Thaksin doesn't understand the saying that justice must not only be done but be seen to be done. More and more people are saying that the laws have been distorted or misinterpreted to favor his business group. Thaksin's stance is that he's doing everything legally, and he's dissolved parliament to hold an election. But this doesn't address what the protesters are talking about. As the situation drags on, bigger groups of people will begin to understand this distinction between playing by the rules and justice being seen to be done.
The economy is still growing, exports are still growing, there's no need to panic. Past history shows that when we have political chaos it tends to be short-term and with limited impact on the economy. But if Thaksin comes back after the election, it will be difficult for him to rule legitimately. This is the big problem that creates all kinds of uncertainties. Whatever decision or policies the government makes, there's always the feeling that it could be reversed after he goes. It's going to affect the ability of Thaksin to govern, and businesses will factor this into account. Investments that require a stable climate will be delayed.
The best way would be for Thaksin to repent, to say: Okay, I did everything by the rules, but there are ethical issues. His best way would be to go back and pay tax on the sale of Shin Corp. and try to do something with the deal so Thais retain majority control. If he does that, maybe he can reduce the tension. He should do that, stay on for a while, then leave politics.
Assistant professor of Southeast Asian Studies, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced and International Studies, Washington D.C.
When the Shin Corp. deal happened, that tipped people to say enough is enough. But Thaksin created the situation. He felt invulnerable, dismissed his critics and thought he could push things through with sheer force of personality. The Thais will put up with a lot, and then they can be as hard as anyone else.
The opposition is very divided, so for them coming to any sort of decision about what exactly they want is very difficult. They are united only in their hatred of Thaksin.
Thaksin will have to make some sort of compromise. The danger is that if there is an élite compromise in Bangkok that doesn't acknowledge the rural population—who genuinely support Thaksin because he recognized them and their needs—that could cause big problems in the future. Thaksin is tarnished whatever happens. But the question now is not just about Thaksin's future but about the future of democracy in Thailand. Either the compromise reached will strengthen the democratic system or it will weaken institutions, and that would have a huge negative impact on Thai democracy.
Novelist, screenwriter and columnist
I don't like Thaksin and agree that he should resign. But now it's become complicated because I don't like his rivals. Each side has its own agenda. If Thaksin steps down, everything will be more relaxed. But he's so stubborn and self-righteous that he's probably not going to step down. It's getting tiresome.
In Bangkok people are divided into three groups. The first is anti-Thaksin, the second supports the government, and the third consists of people who are just bored and fed up with the situation and want it to go away. I don't approve of the government and the way it's running the country. But it's also difficult to support or agree with the street protesters. The issues they raise against the government aren't credible. They're just trying to get people angry and win support. It's not really democracy at all on the streets. They're not really offering a solution or saying what could be done better. They are just trying to get Thaksin out.
Before this crisis, very few people were openly antigovernment. Now many are, because they think they should be. Lots of people are taking sides, not really knowing what it's about, or how to actually solve anything. Some people go the rallies to be "part of history," or to meet friends, take photos. It's become theater.