Thailand: Church prays for peace, urges for dialogue

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The Catholic Church in Thailand, while recognising that declaration of martial law was imperative to control riots, urged that talks be initiated between the warring factions to restore peace in the nation.

“In a polarized situation, it is urgent to open a channel between the parties to resolve the institutional crisis,” said Monsignor Andrew Vissanu Thanya-Anan, Executive Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Thailand.

The army chief, General Prayuth Chan, yesterday declared martial law on the whole nation. The law gives the military the power to use weapons to suppress riots, confiscate any building, censor information, prohibit public gatherings, arrest suspects and activate the military court.

"We were in a situation of institutional stalemate for a long time. Because of uncertainty and insecurity, the population welcomed the intervention of the army which is not a coup but serves to prevent violence and chaos that would further damage the country; this is the aim of the martial law,” he explained.

The Commander, stressing the need to ensure peace and order, called on the population to "continue life as usual".

Monsignor Thanya-Anan said, "The Catholic Church is closely following developments of the situation. Let us pray and join efforts with leaders of other religions, such as Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. When the Thai population sees that religious leaders are united, hand in hand for peace, this has a strong influence on the hearts and minds, and therefore on the future of the country."

The military measure comes after the escalation of social and political tension in the country, after the Supreme Court dismissed the elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra due to abuse of office and replaced it with a provisional government.

Confrontation between anti-government factions (the ‘yellow shirts’, an expression for the urban bourgeoisie), and the ‘red shirts’ formed by farmers and the rural population loyal to the Shinawatra government caused 28 deaths and hundreds of people were injured. The presence of armed militant groups also among the factions prompted the intervention of the army.

Source: UCANEWS.COM (mAY 21, 2014)