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Institute warns of 'reconciliation war'

King Prajadhipok's Institute (KPI) yesterday strongly advised against a push for the House of Representatives to endorse reconciliation proposals contained in the institute's recent research report for fear of a new round of political violence.

It threatened to call back the report if the suggestion is ignored. The institute called for a broader debate of its proposals, involving political parties and different elements in society, to find reconciliation measures that are acceptable to larger groups, and not just certain political parties.

KPI secretary-general Borwornsak Uwanno called a news conference after yesterday's meeting of the institute's council. He said KPI had made its suggestions to the House committee on national reconciliation, which then made its proposals to Parliament based on the institute's study.

The reconciliation panel, headed by former coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, recently picked up some proposals from the KPI report. Among the more controversial proposals were granting general amnesty to all those involved in the political conflict and expunging legal cases stemming from investigations by the post-coup Assets Examination Committee.

The lower house is scheduled to debate the Sonthi panel's reconciliation proposals today.

Borwornsak said that to prevent renewed conflict and violence, KPI suggested that the reconciliation panel's term be extended until the end of the next parliamentary session to allow involvement of political parties and different social elements into the discussion "to find an exit for the country together".

The panel's term is due to end at the end of this month.

KPI is an independent academic organisation under parliamentary supervision.

"The institute is pleased to work with the reconciliation committee in holding a forum to find solutions for the country," Borwornsak said, before warning that KPI would call back its copyrighted research report if the House votes to endorse part of its reconciliation proposals.

"This is to prevent a 'war of reconciliation' or 'winner's justice', which could lead to violent conflict," he said.

Critics and members of the opposition have accused the government of trying to take advantage of its parliamentary majority in pushing for selective reconciliation measures deemed to benefit certain politicians, particularly former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

"The first proposal by the researchers is that no atmosphere of reconciliation has yet existed," Borwornsak said. "One side sets up red-shirt villages and has websites that are critical of the country's top institution [referring to the monarchy] while the other side threatens to hold street demonstrations. These are the same old behaviours.

"As there is no reconciliation and no change in behaviour, you cannot rush it," he said.

KPI deputy secretary-general and head researcher Woothisarn Tanchai said there should be no rush in deciding on the reconciliation measures, or there could be a new round of violence.

"A joint stance is to find a solution together and take the responsibility together to prevent violence occurring again," he said.

He called on the government and the legislature to base their decisions on mutually acceptable ground.

When asked whether there would be conflict if the ruling Pheu Thai Party pushes its reconciliation law through Parliament to grant amnesty to some people, Borwornsak said Pheu Thai would lose its legitimacy and would be held responsible for the consequences.

Sonthi, the reconciliation panel's chairman, said he did not think there would be any problem if KPI decided to withdraw its research report.

Pheu Thai MP Udomdej Ratansathien, who is a member of the panel, said there was no need to extend the committee's term because it had completed its work.


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