June 12, 2014 00:00 By KORNCHANOK RAKSASERI THE NATI
WINNER-TAKES-ALL APPROACH WILL TAKE THAILAND NOWHERE, REFORM NETWORK MEMBERS SAY
Reform group calls for society’s input in the healing process
The Reform Now Network (RNN) has declared that full participation of all parties in Thailand is necessary if reform and reconciliation, which are intertwined, are to succeed.
“The reforms must not be ‘winners’ reforms’ or those of the power holders. They must be the type of platform that all sides and sectors of Thai society can take part in – from thinking, suggesting, to driving the reforms,” the network said.
RNN comprises 70 organisations and individuals from different sectors. It proposes that civil society, which is a valuable resource of people and knowledge, must not be left out of the reform process. Other mechanisms such as an interim government, a reform council and the National Legislative Assembly, together with civil society, would contribute as driving forces.
While proposing reforms for political, justice, and bureaucratic systems – and the fight against corruption – as examples of urgent issues, RNN also named four laws to reduce inequality: community land rights, a progressive tax, a land bank and a justice fund.
Yesterday’s forum was the sixth in this platform. The speakers included former Justice permanent secretary Kittipong Kittayarak, who has been appointed an adviser attached to the Prime Minister’s Office, and former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai.
At the forum, Kittipong said the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) had taken the right direction so far, adopting the role of a third party while trying to create an atmosphere of reconciliation. It might be able to bring together conflicting parties who could not talk to each other in the past. However, this tactic might work only for some groups.
Meanwhile, as a next step, problems must be tackled more deeply and made clear they are not only conflicts among particular groups but the root of the problems. These include social disparity, “domination of democracy”, and problems of the justice system, which must be studied and properly tackled, he said.
A high-ranking diplomat from an East Asian embassy raised concern that under martial law, some opinion leaders might refrain from giving opinions. He asked how the RNN would like to see martial law applied.
Surakiart said the NCPO had made a good start in creating an atmosphere in which conflicting parties could start a dialogue. However, in the next stage, which includes the processes of reform and reconciliation, it would be necessary to create a sense of ownership of the processes, which could only be achieved by real participation, not by force.
Surakiart earlier said all conflicting parties wanted reform in Thailand. They also recognised or faced the same problems of social disparity, flaws in checks-and-balances systems, and unfair resource management and distribution.
He said he could not see any one individual person capable of facilitating the talks and the processes of reconciliation and reform. Various methods and people were needed to deal with different groups, and he believed that networks such as the RNN could contribute hugely.
Reforms might take up to 10 years to complete and issues such as the political and justice systems, power decentralisation and social disparity, should take priority, Surakiart said.
The former foreign minister also told the media he understood it was normal for many foreign countries to reveal their attitudes and be curious about Thailand’s political roadmap. They should be helpful by sharing experience. “Countries with low corruption rates should come and assist us,” he said.
Yongyud Wongpiromsarn, a psychologist from the Public Health Ministry, said it was necessary for the NCPO to create an atmosphere of trust and hope.
“The power seizure reduced the hatred where [opposing sides] clashed every day via their own media. At the same time it simplified the problems to only ‘this side or that side’, while the real problems were much more complex,” he said.
“The [junta’s] current methods [off issuing summons] have led to an atmosphere of fear and doubt. For the second phase to happen, the NCPO must overcome this condition.
Otherwise, many more problems will follow,” he said.
While the NCPO already holds the power, it should modestly launch a platform or set up a mechanism for people to speak. This way would suit Thai culture even more, he said.
Hannarong Yaowalers, chairman of the Thai-Water Partnership, said that in many cases, reform could take place effectively without law enforcement. He gave an example of how some villagers encroached on and farmed in the forests. However, they changed their minds and returned the land when they understood their deeds would affect the environment.