Nation Multimedia Group
Nation Multimedia Group

Abhisit details new reconciliation talks

national February 23, 2017 01:00

By THE NATION

In Facebook live interview, former prime minister expresses cautious optimism.



NATIONAL RECONCILIATION is finally starting to take shape as the government has renewed its efforts and set up a committee to pursue the goal. 

Political parties and groups |are now being invited to join reconciliation talks hosted by the Defence Ministry to find common ground on various issues that can hopefully lead to agreement.

But will the effort pay off? The Nation Multimedia Group’s digital journalist Suthichai Yoon talked to Abhisit Vejjajiva, former prime minister and leader of the Democrat Party, on Facebook Live about the current reconciliation efforts. He joined the talks last Friday.

HOW DID THE TALKS GO? DID YOU GET TO TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING?

There are 10 questions and other topics – anything that we want to address. We could say anything we want. Last Friday, it took us three-and-a-half hours, while our counterparts were completely silent. They only listened, took notes and recorded videos.

No feedback from them at all?

No. They gave us a chance to speak as much as we wanted. So, for those who are going to join the talks, I would like to say that if they know that the process is like this, they can be comfortable.

My counterparts may not have liked some points I addressed. And I think other groups will do the same, too. But I think it’s great that they tolerated our comments.

I don’t want anyone to … say that the military is a conflicting party. [The military] should let this go. If they want to prove you are a conflicting party, let them. Don’t respond or anything.

WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP AFTER THIS? WHO WILL PROCESS THE COMMENTS AND WRAP THEM UP TO PROPOSE THE SOLUTION?

Well, they have four committees – opinion gathering, processing, proposing solutions and public relations. Actually, from what I saw last Friday, they all worked together, not separately.

At the talks, representatives from all committees were present. They did not work until their part was done and then forwarded to another committee. They worked in parallel.

They told me that it would become clearer where this is going by April.

HOW WELL DO YOU THINK EVERYTHING WORKS?

First, we have to determine where we draw the finish line. Personally, I think that no one knows where the line is until after an election.

We can have the reconciliation proposal, we can sign a contract and hold a press conference, but if everything is chaotic again after the election, then it’s meaningless.

TODAY, SOME MIGHT SAY THAT THERE’S NOTHING CONCRETE ABOUT RECONCILIATION. BUT IF IT TURNS OUT THAT THE COUNTRY IS PEACEFUL AFTER THE ELECTION, THEN ISN’T THAT THE FINISH LINE? SO, WE HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL AFTER THE ELECTION?

What I can say now is that there is no way the preparation committee or the government can control the future. This is more about laying a foundation to find common ground for coexistence after the election.

If it can create some norms of coexistence accepted by people, then the political players will be pressured to respect and go towards the same direction as that norm. I think that is the finish line or the success of this scheme.

BUT THERE IS NO GUARANTEE?

No, there is no guarantee. But if there are concrete rules for coexistence – to draw a line of what reconciliation is, how people should be respected, and how to counter disrespect, maybe it could be the best insurance we can get.

SO, WE NEED TO STRENGTHEN THE CIVIL SOCIETY?

Absolutely. Politicians are only small group of people. Reconciliation eventually lies in the hands of the people. Don’t worry about us. Strengthen the people and they will be able to control us.

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