Saturday, May 8, 2010

Thai Prime Minister Announces National Reconciliation Plan

The road map for national reconciliation that Prime Minister Aphisit Vejjajiva presented during a television broadcast in the night of 2 May has been viewed by many people as an effort to come up with a 'quick political answer.' For those observers, he appears to be trying to complete the reconciliation plan within a period of time and it is obvious an agreement was reached earlier.

Aphisit's political answer has obtained mixed reactions -- both positive and negative. Some people view it as a 'win-Win' solution to the political problem that provides 'an exit' for both sides of the feud. Some people say Aphisit is taking 'too much risk' in making the move. This could be his quick solution to the problem, without taking into account possible negative consequences. Most of his proposed five points for reconciliation are not new; he already talked about them since he became the prime minister.

Real Mastermind
The story behind that happened is not a talk between representatives of Aphisit and the red shirt leaders who are only 'a proxy.' It is a talk with someone outside of the country who is the real 'mastermind'.

So, the talk had to be done in a very secret manner, through no more than two people who are close to Aphisit -- and even Chuan Likphai did not know about it. Thaksin Shinawatra was represented by two or three people in the 'politburo'. The negotiation went on for a considerable period of time.

The representatives from both sides regularly reported the progress of the negotiation to their respective bosses. The conclusion of the talk was that the government would move up House dissolution and a new election in the next five to six months. Before the next election, there will be constitutional amendment in a way the current coalition parties want. After the election, all sides must accept the election result and whichever party gets the most House seats will form the next government, which may be a coalition government. Later, there must be attempts to seek amnesty for political offences that took place after 19 September 2006.

Justice Process
Thaksin promised to wash his hands off politics and said he was ready to enter the justice process. He reserved his right to appeal the court ruling in his asset seizure case.

Both Thaksin and the government have arrived at a dead end and they cannot make any further moves। For Thaksin and the UDD (United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship), the longer their rally, the less the legitimacy they have. The majority of the country does not support their rally because it has caused damage to the country estimated at several billions of baht.

Moreover, the government appears to be serious about use of force in dispersing the protest. It seems the 'politburo' provided Thaksin with analysis and report, with advice that going further will bring more harm than good for them. Although Thaksin has invested almost a billion of baht in this protest, he eventually has to admit the fact that he is unable to achieve his goal, now. So, it is good for him to accept the offer now and to make up for his failure later.

Aphisit has been under heavy pressure from society. Bangkok residents, particularly the people of multi-colored shirts, want the government to enforce the law strictly and swiftly. The longer he waits the more pressure he gets. There is also pressure from certain superpower countries that want to see both sides sitting down for a talk. So, Aphisit needs to find a fast exit urgently before he has no choices left other than using military force to disperse the protest.

Aphisit regards his offer as the 'lowest threshold' he could yield to Thaksin and the UDD. And he would not step back any further. If Thaksin and the UDD do not agree to it, the government will go ahead with the dispersal plan. The reconciliation offer is proposed as 'an exit' or 'a way to climb down' for Thaksin and the UDD, and this is their last chance.

Disadvantage for Coalition Parties
The tentative election date of 14 November, has been proposed. If Thaksin does not agree to it, the government will go ahead taking action against the UDD. Some people may view that the proposed date will put the Democrat and other coalition parties at a disadvantage. But on the contrary, the coalition parties have no fear about it. It is because the Phuea Thai Party still has an image of being connected to the UDD and the armed men in black, which may put them in a disadvantage. It is not easy to shake off that image and their perceived connection with the hooligans. Moreover, people still remember the behavior of Phuea Thai MPs who went onto the UDD stage and made improper remarks about the monarchy.

Aphisit is well-aware about the concern of his supporters who are worried that the government may offer amnesty to UDD leaders who committed offences and are wanted by police with arrest warrants. To allay that concern, Aphisit stressed that definitely there will be no amnesty to those who committed 'criminal offences'. He said the government would adhere to the rule of law and the legal principle in running the country. But Aphisit did not say whether there would be amnesty for political offences.

Tough Time Ahead
Nevertheless, members of the general public are looking to see how serious the government will be about the acts through the Red media in contempt of the monarchy.

Initial reactions to the road map are generally positive. And if Aphisit insists there will be no amnesty for criminal offenders and there will be serious action against people who are undermining the country's highest institution, the general public will be able to accept this road map.

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