Still an ideological peace advocate, Anek Laothamatas dreams of how best to forge reconciliation in divisive Thailand.
Being appointed as chair of the new political reform committee under the national reform law, Anek does not hesitate to peg reconciliation as one of the top issues to be pursued by his committee.
“It should be somehow long-term, educational, or nurtured as part of our political culture,” said Anek.
He did not confirm if he would adopt the previous plan, lauded as one of the most comprehensive reconciliatory approaches, developed by the now-defunct national reconciliation committee which he chaired in 2014 under the guidance of the now-defunct National Reform Council.
Besides reconciliation, Anek’s committee is tasked with long-term political reform which would look at politics at a national level and a local level.
The weight, Anek said, would be given to the local level as politics at the national level has been extensively overhauled with several elements introduced in the new charter, as well as its organic laws.
Anek said politics at the national level would see extensive structural changes as a result of enactment and promulgation of those laws.
What certain, he said, is a major change as a result of the introduction of the new primary voting system under the new political party law, which would allow party members to select MP candidates of their choice to be fielded in elections. This would decentralise power to the people, but it needs more to be done, he said.
That is the reason why his committee would also focus on local politics in the political reform plan, about to be submitted to the government for further implementation along with another 10 reform sectors in December.
Anek said during the change of the country’s regime from an absolute mornachy to mornachical democracy, King Rama VII emphasised on political development at a local level, and wanted to see municipalities become strong and central to the country’s politics. But, over time, the politics at this level has progressed at a slow pace, compared with the national level.
Local politics have hardly been addressed during this significant transitional period, he said, and that’s why the committee would focus on this area.
Anek said the committee had not dropped the idea of developing further national politics but would try to come up with supportive mechanisms to help newly introduced structures to become effective.
For instance, the committee would suggest how the new Election Commisison could work effectively in ensuring the coming election would be free and fair. The election, Anek said, is critical to Thailand’s future politics as it would be a new beginning under new rules and structures.
The committee would also introduce a so-called principle of Dharma-led democracy, democracy which is not just about the majority, but showed compassion for all.
The committee has not yet figured out how to achieve the principle. However, without religious-based thinking, any regime could easily fall into cracks and divisions, he said, noting that Thailand from now on should embrace the idea to heal its wounds.