The prime minister insists on a new reconciliation forum when a similar body already exists and has made recommendations; she must now say and do something useful to justify the new initiative
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra wants people to join the reconciliation bandwagon, and it’s hard to turn down the invitation without appearing to be heartless. After all, reconciliation is desperately needed and will be good for the nation. Naturally, the opposition Democrat Party and members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy are accusing the premier of doing the right thing but for the wrong reasons.
But the reasons do not have to be “wrong” if Yingluck can clear the air and demonstrate why she is doing this and how her government plans to build on it, especially since recommendations have already been made.
Of course, inviting well-known international figures like Nobel Peace Prize-winner Maarti Ahtisaari and reconciliation expert Priscilla Hayner could be inspiring, since these people have much to offer in terms of experience.
But essentially, this is Thailand’s problem, and the final solution must come from within. In fact, an independent council – the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (TRCT), headed by Dr Kanit Na Nakhon – has already issued a detailed report on the ongoing political crisis and provided a set of recommendations for reconciliation.
Is Yingluck trying to reinvent the wheel, since the TRCT has already carried out the same task she now proposes? If so, how is her wheel going to be better, or more acceptable to all sides, when she and her party are hardly neutral in the conflict?
It might be more pragmatic, time-saving and substantive – although a slight loss of face – for the government go back to the TRCT report and use it as a blueprint for the upcoming event, so at least the invited foreign dignitaries have something to go by.
The prime minister will also have to explain to the public and the invited dignitaries why her government has not taken up any of the TRCT’s recommendations.
The government might not like what the TRCT report said. Nevertheless, the TRCT is the only body that received a mandate from both the ruling Pheu Thai Party and the opposition Democrats. It was initially set up by the Abhisit government and was anointed by Prime Minister Yingluck shortly after she came into office.
It would be a mistake and a missed opportunity not to take advantage of the existing recommendations when there is so little else where the two parties can claim joint ownership.
The government has said it will simply host the proposed event and provide facilitation. But the prime minister should not equate this to another vow of silence. She will have to say something sensible, something that can heal the wounds, because all sides have suffered and all sides are demanding justice. That is the serious challenge she must face up to.
The prime minister cannot hide behind foreign figures thinking that their shadow will somehow defend her from the moral and legal obligation she has to this country.
Again, many of the invited figures are inspirational people, and for our sake, let’s leave it at that. Let’s hope they can inspire all of us to do the right thing.