By Piyaporn Wongruang
THE proposals formulated by the National Reform Council's reconciliation committee have been praised by leading law and peace figures but they question whether the recommendations can be effectively implemented.
Phairoj Pholphet, the commissioner of the Law Reform Commission of Thailand, said the proposals were similar to the ones made by the now-defunct Truth for Reconciliation Commission, which provided a comprehensive package of recommendations aimed at healing society.
Phairoj said a major obstacle towards reconciliation was the fact that different parties had claimed different “truths” regarding political conflicts and consequences.
Without the “same set of truths”, he said, people could not agree on where to start to resolve the conflicts. Without that starting point, the conflicts had been left unresolved and reconciliation never stood a chance.
Therefore, he said it was a must that the same set of truths be put in place to pave the way for conflict management and resolution.
Phairoj said he could see the reconciliation committee’s effort in identifying that need in its first and second recommendations, and if successfully implemented, it could help identify offenders and victims and facilitate appropriate responses.
Once people were correctly identified, justice could be delivered, rehabilitation could take place and compensation arranged.
Phairoj said the committee had systematically lined up steps towards amnesties and rehabilitation, and he agreed with the conditions set for the amnesties.
However, he stressed that justice must be assured, and as such serious offenders must be separately dealt with and brought to justice.
He also said society needed to learn the lessons from the past to prevent the violence repeating itself – a point that had been well addressed in the proposals.
“From what I see, the committee has tried its best to propose the recommendations in a package,” he said. “I must say that they are comprehensive and good although people have overlooked them and focused only on the amnesties proposed.”
Putting the recommendation into practice required political will, a new reconciliation body and a new law to ensure the body’s continuity and commitment, he said.
Phairoj suggested the new body be set up via parliament to win over people’s acceptance. Doing so would give reconciliation efforts, which would take time, a chance of succeeding.
Mahidol University peace expert Gothom Arya also praised the committee’s efforts but questioned whether it had been too ambitious, citing one of the recommendations involving complicated fundamental changes including getting rid of inequality.
Gothom said what was probably needed first was a fact-finding mission and uncovering the truth.
He said several efforts had been made to do this in previous years but concerned parties either still viewed the facts differently or rejected them. That, he said, frustrated the reconciliation process from the start.
Gothom believes that the proposals that stand the best chance of being achieved are the ones relating to amnesty as some passages centred on uncovering the truth by concerned parties and amnesty and forgiveness were tossed. This will help encourage more engagement, he said.
However, Gothom wants to see the whole of society rehabilitated as everyone has been affected by the conflicts.