Thailand's political turmoil has battered the country's image. Anti-government protests and violence is scaring off businesspeople, investors and tourists. This is not what Thais need at a time when their economy is already in sharp decline because of the financial crisis. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and demonstrators loyal to his ousted predecessor, Thaksin Shinawatra, owe it to the nation to exercise the utmost restraint to prevent chaos and to search for a peaceful way forward. Protesters are upping the ante. Ever-bigger crowds are gathering outside the home of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's top adviser, accusing him of orchestrating the 2006 coup that brought down Thaksin. On Tuesday, two dozen demonstrators surrounded Mr Abhisit's car and smashed one of its windows as the leader left a cabinet meeting in Pattaya. There are now fears that a three-day meeting from tomorrow at the resort city of the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their counterparts from China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand could be targeted. Untold damage will be done if the situation escalates. There is much bad blood between the sides. Anti-Thaksin protesters last year brought the nation to a standstill by culminating daily demonstrations with a three-month sit-in at Government House and shutting down Bangkok's main airports for a week. Mr Abhisit's way to power was paved by court rulings that removed two prime ministers loyal to Thaksin. The still popular ousted leader, a fugitive from a sentence for corruption, is urging on backers through video links from exile. Thais cherish their democracy, despite it having been eroded. Mr Abhisit holds office without their popular mandate. To call fresh elections now would not resolve the crisis as it is highly likely another pro-Thaksin government would be chosen, causing a fresh start to the movement against him. Until there is political stability, the prime minister has to ensure his opponents can freely voice their concerns, yet fairly maintain order. He has to be even-handed. A good start would be to show impartiality by acting against those who brought the government and airports to a standstill last year. Thaksin has to calm his rhetoric and ensure protests are peaceful. Both sides have to seek a negotiated settlement. There will be no winners, only losers, if the crisis worsens.