Tough task for unity panel
The newly-formed reconciliation committee, without the opposition and the pro-reform movement, faces a swathe of challenges ahead.
The panel which came into existence this week is an initiative of the Democrat Party. It arose during a special meeting aimed at finding a solution to the long-standing conflicts that escalated with a series of street demonstrations held by pro-reform students activists.
Parliament president Chuan Leekpai turned the initiative into a reality, approaching all sides. However, only 11 out of 21 members sitting on the committee have been named. Headed by the Democrats' veteran politician Therdpong Chaiyanan, the panel comprises representatives of only government parties, the Senate, and academic institutes.
On the surface, it seems pressure has been eased as the demonstrators have suspended their activities, largely because of the new round of the Covid-19 outbreak, not because of a favourable political atmosphere. In fact, as the government hastily prosecutes those facing Section 112 charges, political timebombs are ticking.
The first challenge of the panel is how to prove itself and gain recognition amid growing dissent, given the composition of the panel which may appear too government-leaning. The Pheu Thai Party has distanced itself from the panel, alleging the government has no sincerity in achieving harmony as it has swiftly prosecuted pro-reform movement members using the draconian Section 112.
Yet Mr Chuan still believes the panel can work despite the opposition's absence, saying it's not a forum for rival parties to fight for their agenda. Instead, he said, all must be aware that it's a national problem and that every party must pitch in to help avert a crisis.
Mr Chuan said he wanted all parties to take the mission as a learning experience, and listen to those in the know for the sake of the national interest, not their own or party's interest.
The panel does not have a deadline. But it has to avoid the old mistakes made by its predecessors. Most governments have set up such panels as a time-buying tactic to ease pressure, rather than reach harmony and reconciliation. That's a shame.
What makes the Therdpong committee different from the old ones is it's initiated by parliament, not the government.
However, the major obstacle is the government's massive use of Section 112 against those with different thoughts and ideas. As a result, the controversial section has largely destroyed any reconciliatory atmosphere.
The panel must be brave enough to bring those tough issues, including several oppressive laws, to the table, discussing them thoroughly to seek changes. This is to make sure the country's democracy -- as well as constitutional monarchy system -- could evolve and adjust to modern times. If necessary, the panel may propose a referendum for some difficult issues, allowing the public to have its say.
Last but not least, the committee must maintain its neutrality in the constitution amendment process. The military-sponsored 2017 charter, with contentious rules that give the government a political advantage over its rivals, that is the pro-military Senate, is the root cause of political conflicts. Even though parliament set up a panel to rewrite the charter, the process will take about two years and even then, there are attempts to drag it on further by adding an extra public hearing.
Without addressing those difficult issues, there will be no harmony.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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