Junta says reds are joining peace train

Detention helps sway UDD leaders

The army says several key red-shirt activists have agreed to talks with the National Council for Peace and Order, boosting the junta’s three-stage plan for reconciliation.

Lt Gen Kampanart Ruddith, an assistant army chief-of-staff and chief of the NCPO’s newly-established Reconciliation Centre for Reforms (RCR), said the junta has approached core red shirts and secured their cooperation in the first stage of the plan.

“All the red-shirt leaders I talked to before they were released agreed to join us in the reconciliation process,” he said.

After the coup on May 22, the NCPO summoned a large number of red-shirt leaders and core members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) and detained them for several days under martial law.

Under the junta's edits, those freed from detention are forbidden from engaging in anti-coup activities. Criticism of the junta is also banned by law.

Red-shirt supporters rally on Aksa Road last month. (Photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)

Lt Gen Kampanart helped assistant army chief Paiboon Khumchaiya talk to detained political activists, especially anti-coup leaders, to secure their cooperation. The detainees were asked to cease political activities and work with the NCPO in restoring unity.

According to Lt Gen Kampanart, the RCR has outlined three phases in its three-month operation from June to August. The first phase is designed to create a climate favourable to reconciliation talks.

“The goal is to make them stop and think that it is time to bury the hatchet and return peace to society. We can’t let political divisiveness go any further,” he said.

To enable the right environment for talks, the NCPO has staged a series of activities and sent out soldiers to provide community services including hosting street parties with free food and music.

Lt Gen Kampanart said the RCR has two tasks at hand.

First, to help a panel, headed by acting permanent secretary for defence Surasak Kanchanarat, lay the groundwork for reform.

It will then go out into the field and talk to members of the public at all levels starting from families, villages, districts and provinces. The task will be carried out through the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) with provincial governors playing host.

He said reconciliation must begin at home, the smallest unit of society. The political conflict has caused strains in families, he said. The next step is to approach villages, tambons, districts and provinces and the national level to reduce lingering animosity.

“We will consider all points and put them in categories and submit them to the NCPO chief. They will be reviewed and it will be decided if they should go before a national legislative body or a national reform council,” he said.

The formation of the national legislative body and the national reform council is in the second phase of the NCPO’s plan. The junta plans to form an interim government before October, which will then take one year to carry out national reform before calling a general election.

Lt Gen Kampanart said he had invited representatives from every ministry to attend a meeting on Tuesday to map out reconciliation plans and set budgets.

“The heart of reconciliation is to make sure that all Thais, especially those who align themselves with particular political groups, stop and realise that it is time to create unity. If we can do that, we are one step ahead,” he said.

An army source said soldiers will set up small bases in villages where they will provide assistance and build trust.

The source said the NCPO has no plan to “brainwash” villagers.

About the author

Writer: Wassana Nanuam
Position: Reporter