July 23, 2014 00:00 By Panya Thiosangwan, Kris Bhrom
Opposing sides brought together as junta works on 'bringing happiness'
Reconciliation fairs organised by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) kicked off nationwide yesterday in a bid to promote greater national unity and reconciliation.
The junta invited opposing political groups including red-shirt leaders to participate in the event, called “The Reconciliation Festival to Return Happiness to the People”.
It will run through till Sunday.
In Bangkok, the morning event began with an alms-giving ceremony for 99 monks at Sanam Luang.
The acting supreme patriarch, Somdet Phra Maha Rachamanga-lajan, and General Surasak Kanjanarat, permanent secretary for Defence, co-chaired the ceremony.
Lt-General Kampanart Ruddit, director of the Reconciliation for Reform Centre, said the fairs were organised to show that all parties were ready to join together for the sake of national progress. This marks the final period of the NCPO’s efforts in its first phase.
After this, work will get more serious and will open up for people to share more on how the country should be reformed once Thailand has a provisional constitution.
He said information from the public showed that most people wanted solutions to economic problems, followed by justice.
Kampanart said reconciliation attempts were proceeding well and conflicting parties would discuss problems and solutions in the national reform council.
The participants yesterday included representatives of ministries, 11 political parties including Pheu Thai and Democrat parties, as well as red-shirt leaders Veerakan Musigapong and Suporn Attha-wong.
Satit Wongnongtaey from People’s Democratic Reform Committee joined the gathering later in the day.
In other areas of Sanam Luang, foods stalls were set up along the paths. Some sold food, while others just gave snacks out for free. Vendors also offered discounted goods.
Ministries also set up their own tents to promote their work, using this gathering as a chance to provide information about what they do to the general public.
This event did not just attract Thai citizens, but many foreign tourists also showed up in large numbers, though that might be because Sanam Luang is located near Bangkok’s other key landmarks, such as the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha Temple.
“We heard about this event last night when we were walking around taking photos of the Grand Palace,” French tourist Laura Willquet said. “We saw a poster advertising the event, so we decided to come and check it out.”
“We didn’t know about this until just now!” said Briton Sam Scott, who was there with a group of friends.
“We were planning to visit the Grand Palace then Wat Po and Wat Traimit. The food is great here and we bought some Thai clothes and there are a lot of things to see here. The officials are quite friendly and helpful.”
Meanwhile, the acting supreme patriarch advised people to follow the five basic Buddhist precepts to ensure national reconciliation.
Yesterday’s event wrapped up with a sound and light show, stage performances and movie screenings.
Similar activities were organised in the country’s other 76 provinces as part of the NCPO’s plan to “return happiness to all Thais” and encourage conflicting sides to meet and make peace with each other.