The military intervention to oust the then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has caused rival camps to bundle up partisan interests, Thaksin’s individual stakes, coup impacts on the political system and reconciliation into a complex web of grudges against each other.
Although it is too late to change the past, all sides can still have a say on how to chart the future.
But if the rival camps remain adamant about settling old scores, then the political rough patch will never end.
Opponents of Thaksin often cite the rule of law, or the lack of it, to justify their arguments – that a rogue leader should be removed in order to safeguard the political system and that Thaksin should be punished instead of being granted an amnesty.
Supporters of Thaksin also talk about the rule of law, or the lack of it, to back up their arguments – saying foul play was committed because Thaksin could not be beaten at the ballot box and that an amnesty is necessary because of the absence of due process.
The rival camps remain rooted to their arguments. The harder they try to sway public sentiment to outmanoeuvre each other, the wider the political divide becomes.
Key players, like Pheu Thai Party, the Democrats, the yellow shirts, the red shirts and other advocacy groups, are rallying for or against Thaksin, regardless of the agitation inflicted on society.
And the coup has made it impossible to prove which side is more righteous than the other. The military intervention has already happened, hence there is little extra ability to shed light on Thaksin’s leadership in the pre-coup period.
If the rival camps believe sentiment could help to resolve contentious issues involving Thaksin, then they should rethink.
In early 2005, Thaksin reaped Bt76 billion by selling his and his family’s assets in the telecom business, triggering the huge outcry that led to his downfall.
In 2007, a judicial decision to seize Bt46 billion of Thaksin’s telecom fortune helped cause the public wrath that led to the growth of the red-shirt movement.
The contradictory mood swing from 2005 to 2007 should serve as a reminder that moral sentiment is not a reliable compass.
It is self-evident that Thaksin is the man at the centre of the country’s vast political divide.
All sides should start to decide what to do with him instead of skirting around the elephant in the room.
Issues involving Thaksin should be singled out and resolved separately from other political problems, such as rewriting the charter and granting an amnesty for those involved in political disturbances from 2005 to 2010.
Because Thaksin is such a controversial figure, without any precedent in modern Thai politics, reaching a resolution on his fate could require an unprecedented undertaking. The very question on whether Thaksin deserves amnesty should be settled by a panel of elders.
At present, the country has nine former prime ministers. If Thaksin is discounted due to conflict of interest along with Surayud Chulanont, who is a privy councillor, the other seven could be called upon to pool their collective wisdom.
The seven are a fair mix of critics versus allies and coup-linked people, versus democratically elected individuals.
Whereas the government, judiciary and legislature have failed to come up with a solution, why not let Chuan Leekpai, Anand Panyarachun, Suchinda Kraprayoon, Banharn Silapa-archa, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, Somchai Wongsawat and Abhisit Vejjajiva decide on their peer Thaksin?