Gothom pushes for democratic Thailand

A veteran peace advocate is proposing a new platform for political dialogue and peace with key issues such as charter amendment and decentralisation being discussed in a bid to create an environment conducive to finding a way out of the long-running, polarised conflict.

Gothom Arya, lecturer in human rights and peace studies at Mahidol University, said he began his year-long "Platform for a Peaceful and Democratic Thailand" project in February and plans to put forward some ideas for national discussion on Oct 27 and 28.

The project, sponsored indirectly by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), focuses on four issues  --  participatory constitutional  amendment, equality and dignity, education for civility, and decentralisation.

The former election commissioner and professor engineering said his efforts complement, not duplicate, previous or on-going attempts by other groups or individuals to  bring about an environment conducive to the non-violent engagement of parties with different interests and ideologies.

He was referring in particular to work by the Anand Panyarachun-led National Reform Commission (which has wound down its work), Prawase Wasi’s National Reform Assembly (which has one more year to go), and Kanit na Nakorn’s Truth for Reconciliation Commission (which concluded its two-year study last month). 

"Forums in various regions have been held to sound out and discuss issues that are of  local interest,” said Mr Gothom. “ For example, in the North the discussions have placed emphasis on the self-administration of provinces while in the Northeast the focus has been on the sustainable natural resources management."

A focus group on constitutional amendment would have further discussions in Bangkok next week on how a participatory process could be crafted out, said Mr Gothom.

He suggested that the Pheu Thai Party-led parliament not vote on the third reading of the controversial current amendment bill to allow for a new process that includes more voices from the people in the drafting procedure.

His proposals were for a compromise of the current differing views on how best to move forward in solving the problems.

Mr Gothom said  constitutional drafters, one from each province, could either be selected by local provincial and tambon level administrative organisations, with a mix of representatives from ruling and opposition parties, or all the writers could be elected, one in each province.

When they have finished drafting the amendments their work should be put to a public referendum before going to the parliament, he said.

"The government might have more than enough votes to do whatever they want,  but getting as much input from the people into the process as possible will prevent it from being rejected later by certain groups of people," said Mr Gothom.

He conceded that the Thai judiciary is somewhat different from those in other countries, for example Chile, in defying coup orders and other rules and regulations

On the violence surrounding the April-May 2010 protests and crackdown in Bangkok and some provinces, Mr Gothom said the truth may never be entirely clear. The Kanit truth commission report and the People's Information Centre report were already offering different angles about the various incidents.

"The Department of Special Investigation and the National Human Rights Commission will soon come out with their own reports, too.

“What we have yet to see is a show of responsibility from the leaders of all sides. They should come forward and apologise to society for the excessive violence during those months," said Mr Gothom.

About the author

Writer: Achara Ashayagachat
Position: Senior Reporter