Mediation role of six agencies was doomed from the start

national March 20, 2014 00:00


THE ATTEMPT by six independent organisations to mediate talks between the government and the rival Suthep camp to resolve the political deadlock met a premature end, because they got off to a wrong start.

Both caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and People’s Democratic Reform Committee chief Suthep Thaugsuban turned down the six agencies’ suggestion that each side nominate 10 individuals for the mediation talks.

Both political camps’ reaction to the suggestion did not raise any eyebrows because the six agencies – the Office of the Ombudsman, the National Economic and Social Advisory Council, the Election Commission, the National Human Rights Commission, the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Office of the Auditor-General – seemed to have over-estimated themselves.

The government and the PDRC may have suspected the six agencies did not have enough clout and prestige to act as “mediators”. This may have stemmed from their belief that the six agencies could not fully carry out their roles in a neutral manner.

To gain the trust and acceptance of both sides, the six agencies had to act without bias and discrimination. This kind of trust cannot be built overnight.

The six agencies stumbled even before they kicked off their plan to help find a way out of the deadlock. The first sign of failure was when they changed their roles from being mediators to coordinators. The change followed a lukewarm response from the public and the media to their earlier proposal. The Office of the Attorney-General then announced its withdrawal from the original group of seven, leaving only six agencies.

The Administrative Court also denied it had anything to do with the mediation role of the agencies after some media branches linked the court to the group.

Besides, most people including the government, viewed some members of the six agencies as “referees who had [already] taken sides”.

Their first proposal for a “neutral government” was seen as leaning towards the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

Not only the government, but the PDRC and even critics with a neutral stance, consequently threw “the neutral government” proposal out of the window.

They all agreed that the six agencies could help the country find a way out merely by carrying out their roles to the best of their ability and following the law.

After their first suggestion was rejected, the six agencies came up with a second idea of having both camps nominate 10 individuals to mediate talks. This time the six agencies knew or partly expected neither side would nominate anyone.

As a result, they urged the public to put pressure on both political camps to accept their proposal, but finally they had to end their roles after no one was ready take up their suggestions.

As Green Politics group coordinator Suriyasai Katasila put it: “The six agencies may end up soiling their hands if they persist with their efforts, since their proposals are beyond reach.”

Ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra had his own conditions for going to the negotiating table, of the kind he would only offer when he is at bay or cornered. Suthep, meanwhile, insisted that he would talk to his old rival only if there was a televised live debate.