Saturday, September 22, 2012

No one in Thailand wants to listen to the hard truth

The negative reaction from the Pheu Thai Party and the red shirts to the report by the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (TRCT) is not a big surprise. One may raise eyebrows, though, considering the fact that the report did confirm their camp's consistent assertion that military aggravation and misjudgement on the part of the former Abhisit government contributed to the political bloodshed in 2010.

Neutral readers of the report, however, cannot see any "extreme bias" on the part of the TRCT. Many red-shirt leaders, as well as Thaksin Shinawatra's international publicist Robert Amsterdam, are seeing what many others fail to see - like the alleged attempt by the TRCT to "blame" the people who were killed or wounded.

The resentment is understandable. The confirmation of the existence of the "men in black" weakens the red-shirt leaders' story that their weeks-long protest in Bangkok between March and May 2010 - during which key business districts were under siege - was peaceful. Not only does the TRCT report link the men in black to well-known red-shirt figures, it mentions bomb attacks and a hospital "invasion". The panel insists it was wrong for the Abhisit government to enlist help from the military to deal with the popular uprising, but strongly suggests that anti-government elements were armed and provocative.

Then the commission touches upon another crucial matter, explicitly criticising moves by the Yingluck administration to use its parliamentary power to rush through legal or constitutional changes so as to achieve a questionable "amnesty" programme. The panel warns that "reconciliation" cannot be forced on a divided nation via one side that controls the parliamentary majority. According to the TRCT, trying to implement much-opposed changes "for reconciliation's sake" could backfire badly, meaning Thailand's political strife could worsen.

The panel's report has won acknowledgement from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. In Thailand, the document, which carries a comprehensive chronology of events, reports and observation by the conventional and social media, and various witnesses' accounts, will most likely end up as expected - as an artefact no one wants to touch. Besides the uproar from Pheu Thai and the red shirts, the Democrats and the military have been less than supportive of the report. Again, the reason is simple: this report blames everyone, and in this political crisis, no one wants to be blamed.

The prevailing apathy that has greeted the report confirms that we are getting nowhere as far as reconciliation is concerned. In fact, the report - the last from the TRCT before it disbands - was never expected to have an impact because the Abhisit government set up the agency. Meanwhile the Yingluck administration seems more interested in another "truth" report, advocated, ironically, by 2006 coup leader Sonthi Boonyaratglin. This latter document, controversially put together - and later almost renounced - by the King Prachadipok Institute, was used by Sonthi to support the Yingluck government's amnesty push.

In Thailand, "reconciliation" and "justice" mean different things to different people. If a "truth" report that seeks to heal and calls for forgiveness and chronicles what happened in 2010 without political bias is torn to pieces like this, there isn't much hope for Thailand in the near future.

The TRCT and its reports will now most likely fade to oblivion, as was widely expected. New truth finders will be commissioned, either by the Yingluck government or its successor. New fact-finding reports will come along. It's likely that some findings might please the ruling party, Robert Amsterdam and the red shirts. But the point is that, if the TRCT report can foster no change, then no report can. This is sad, but it's as simple as that.-Asia News Network (September 22, 2012)

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