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Protests

Unrest in Thailand, 'both sides unwilling to talk'

Thailand has been stuck in a political crisis for the past two months, with the opposition demanding the democratically-elected Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra resign from office.

DW: It has been two months since political tension began really heating up in Thailand. Do you see any sign that one political group might come out victorious?

Pravit Rojanaphruk: I think Thai society is heavily divided and both the opposition and the government are almost equally powerful. Since the military coup in 2006 - which ousted Thaksin Shinawatra - no side has been completely defeated. The coup, however, was not able to finish Thaksin's political influence.

Do you see any chance of a compromise between the opposition and the government?

There's always a possibility of compromise, but both sides, at the moment, appear unwilling to even talk. Perhaps there will be a deal after more damage is done. Six people have been killed over a period of two months since the protests started, and I do not rule out the possibility of more deaths and injuries.

But Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said snap elections could be help to defuse tension?

That offer was rejected by the protesters.

Do you see any space for the government to maneuver in this situation?

There is little room for it. I think the most like scenario is that more damage will be incurred on Thai society and eventually both sides will feel pressure from the non-partisan people to reach a compromise. But it will take a while.

The Thai King and the military have not yet intervened in the conflict so far. Are there any indications that they might do so in the near future?

The military will only intervene if things get out of control. There has been violence but not widespread. The reason why the military is reluctant to step in is because it knows that even if it does so, there are millions of government supporters who will oppose such an intervention. In 2006, when the military staged a coup, there was no organized movement to support Thaksin. If it tries to repeat it, it will be impossible to govern the country. Only if there was an open civil war in Thailand, would the military do something. But it will not solve the main issues. As far as the king is concerned, he is too old and frail to get into all this. In fact, there is a lot of anxiety among the anti-government protesters because they are loyal to the king and are concerned about the future of the Thai monarchy. One of the reasons why many people come out on the streets to overthrow Yingluck and challenge Thaksin's influence on his sister's government is because they believe Yingluck and Thaksin are anti-monarchy, and that they are concerned about what will happen after the king is dead.

Do you think that the snap election, which might take place in February, can bring peace and stability to Thailand?

There is a slight possibility of that. If a huge number of people don't turn out to vote, the legitimacy of the new government will be questioned. The protesters will then call for reforms. On the other hand, there could be a widespread unrest in different parts of Thailand - particularly in Bangkok and the south, where opposition has more influence - on the election day. So it's a difficult situation. The election itself is not the solution. The need for a dialogue and a compromise is crucial.

Pravit Rojanaphruk is a Thai journalist. Among other outlets, he works for "The Nation," one of Thailand's top English-language newspapers.

Interview conducted by Rodion Ebbighausen