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'Arm-twisting approach to reconciliation both good, bad'

The push for national reconciliation through heavy "arm-twisting" by the military junta has both strengths and weaknesses, prominent peace advocate Gothom Arya, of Mahidol University's Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, has warned.

Gothom said the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has succeeded in getting leaders of various shirt colours to appear together, shake hands and to talk.

This was a strength of the initiative, but it constituted a weakness as well.

"They are forced to appear [in public] and talk," said Gothom. "I consider this a weakness as well because they didn't come [to the table] out of their own will. They were cajoled through arm-twisting tactics. It may be a process that helps move things forward and a good beginning, however."

Gothom suggested that the NCPO's Reconciliation Centre for Reform, which is led by Lt-General Kampanart Ruddit, should engage with leaders of various political colour groups at both national and local levels.

He said it was crucial also to hold closed door meetings in a small group of various sides in a way that would not be publicised so everyone had the chance to air their grievances freely.

Gothom said he hoped to see more concrete details and plans coming out of the Reconciliation Centre for Reform.

A former Election Commissioner and head of Pollwatch, Gothom was among people who were summoned by the NCPO but not detained.

He said he had told those whom he met and stressed to the junta that the transitional period should be brief.

He told the NCPO that national reconciliation was a delicate matter.

Gothom said he also aired his concerns about the on-going situation in the deep South.

Despite the military coup, Gothom said the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies at Mahidol University, where he is a lecturer, would continue to research and promote deliberative democracy as a peaceful process to overcome political differences.


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