Thai PM Seeks Confrontation, Not Reconciliation

The Abhisit Vejjajiva administration in Thailand has made a number of symbolic gestures in recent days which are being viewed as a “reconciliation bid” following the killings of protesters in Bangkok over the past several months.  However any search for substance behind the plan makes it appear more like a bid for confrontation.

The authorities have granted bail, at an exboritantly high price, to red shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan – however they have not withdrawn the absurd terrorism charges.  They appointed the well known Kanit Nannakorn to head an investigatory panel, but he is already tainted as this nomination must be consensual, squandering the independence of the effort.  As Human Rights Watch has stated, “A one-sided inquiry will undermine efforts to reach a political solution.”  Lastly, Abhisit is launching a five-point national “reform plan” for reconciliation, containing vague promises of social justice and even more media freedom.

This all seems quite appealing for international consumption, however we must look to what the regime does, not what it says. 

They have unlawfully detained hundreds of protesters, holdingthese political prisoners in various secret camps, many without charges,while denying them their basic rights to defense.  The regime hascontinued to enjoy the full repressive powers of a state of emergency,censoring media and websites, and creating a seemingly permanent stateof siege.  Not a single army or police officer has been arrested,investigated or questioned, while the evidence of unarmed anddefenseless civilian victims of the shootings are beginning to mount(even medics mayhave been targeted).  The continued absurdity of phony terrorismallegations alone is a major obstacle to this “bid” forreconciliation.  

Furthermore, it’s difficult for thisadministration to talk about reconciliation when it still has notprovided satisfactory answers to the declarations by AmnestyInternational and the International Commission of Jurists at the HumanRights Council in Geneva this week that Thailand failed to comply withits international human rights commitments in the violent deployment offorce to disperse the Red Shirt protests between May 13 and 19.

Thereare variousother conversations by peace experts on the necessary steps toresolve the Thai crisis, but true reconciliation must begin with 1) aninternational commission to investigate the killings, and 2) a firmelection date in the near future to restore democratic legitimacy to thecountry.  The victims deserve more than just a show of symbols.