Chaeng Watthana talks inconclusive

Negotiations between the authorities and protest leader Luang Pu Buddha Issara over the reopening of Chaeng Watthana Road and the Government Complex ended inconclusively on Sunday, but both sides agreed to hold tripartite talks involving representatives of the police and military forces later this week.

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The talks between Pol Lt Gen Nares Nantachote, commander of Provincial Police Region 1, and the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) were held over video-conferencing because the monk is wanted under an arrest warrant.

Poor sound and vision signals intermittently disrupted the conference, forcing both sides to communicate via mobile phone during the final part of the 45-minute talk. 

Luang Pu told Pol Lt Gen Nares that the PDRC had not closed Chaeng Watthana Road as alleged by police, but only asked motorists to take alternative routes inside the Government Complex to the road.

He said the protesters had previously allowed vehicles to pass an intersection flyover close to the rally stage but numerous gun and bomb attacks were carried out against them. As a result, motorists were being directed onto the road inside the complex for the protesters’ safety.

A section of Chaeng Watthana Road near the protest base had to be closed after all late night activities ended due to assailants using motorcycles and cars that did not carry licence plates to launch attacks. 

The monk pleaded for understanding, adding the PDRC could reopen traffic and allow vehicles to pass the area if police could guarantee safety for the demonstrators. 

Pol Lt Gen Nares said he had negotiated with the monk on behalf of residents who were affected by the road closure. He asked Luang Pu to send representatives to take part in a joint committee which would include police and military officers. He said a panel would make negotiations easier. 

He admitted that providing safety for the Chaeng Watthana rally stage was a difficult talk but promised that police would try to do better. 

He proposed the setting up of security checkpoints jointly managed by police-military officers and PDRC guards to prevent weapons from being brought into or near the rally site and ensure better safety for the protesters. 

Luang Pu agreed with Pol Lt Gen Nares’s proposals but demanded assurances from police that they would not launch a crackdown operation against the protesters and no violent attacks would happen while the talks are under way. 

After the negotiations, he said Pol Lt Gen Nares would contact him and arrange more talks later in the week.  Luang Pu said he was willing to negotiate with anyone, including Department of Special Investigation chief Tarit Pengdith. He will meet with King Prajadhipok's Institute secretary-general Bavornsak Uvanno and the parliamentary ombudsman on Monday.

Video by Apichit Jinakul

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