August 21, 2012 00:00 By Avudh Panananda
The government, the opposition Democrat Party and the Army are engaging in a strange interplay which could put the reconciliation process in jeopardy.
A most contentious issue at the centre of the interplay is the 2010 political strife.
While they are paying lip service to bringing about reconciliation, key players are actually gearing up for reprisal instead of mending fences and showing forgiveness.
The red shirts have consistently been on the hunt for culprits responsible for the bloodshed. It is plain that the reds want two Democrats – then prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban – to be held accountable as overseers of the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation.
After the Pheu Thai-led government came to power a year ago, the red shirts did not make real headway in chasing after Abhisit and Suthep. They seemed to have generated a lot of noise, however.
Last month, the government made a bold decision to second more than 50 police investigators to the Department of Special Investigation in order to expedite special probes into those killed in the political violence.
No government leaders stepped forward to explain the true motive for why they had suddenly intervened and tried to help the red shirts in settling their old scores.
Speaking in his defence, Suthep offered his theory on the government intervention. He said the government simply wanted to pressure the Democrats into dropping their opposition to the reconciliation bill, seen as a whitewash for fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Despite the government building a case to prosecute him, Abhisit remains unwavering in his opposition to Thaksin.
Remarks by Suthep and Abhisit are clear that the Democrats will not allow Thaksin to elude his punishment regardless of the consequences.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung and DSI investigators too are explicit about their search for fresh evidence to implicate the two Democrats in the bloodshed.
What Chalerm sees as fresh evidence, Suthep views as a rewrite of history to frame him and Abhisit.
As DSI investigators scramble to get ex-soldiers to change statements on their involvement in crowd control, Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha has joined the fray.
If the statements given by soldiers deployed to rein in the red shirts in 2010 are any indication, then the government will never succeed in building a case against Suthep or Abhisit.
Those statements are in line with the crowd control operations as executed by the Army and the CRES. For the past few weeks, Prayuth has lost his cool because he sees attempts to get the ex-soldiers to recant statements as a direct affront to the Army.
Even though the government leaders, particularly Chalerm, have assured that the soldiers would not be held accountable for the bloodshed, no one can really predict how events will play out if the red shirts are to have their way in dictating their version of the 2010 mayhem.
To safeguard the military’s integrity, the Army chief has become an unwitting ally of the Democrats. He openly criticises the DSI. He has initiated police proceedings accusing red-shirt lawyer Robert Amsterdam of libel. He is also engaging in a fight to resist the government meddling in the military line-up.
As long as the government is determined to carry out revenge for the red shirts, this will push the Democrats and the Army into an opposing corner. And the political divide will persist.