Panel must be trustworthy

Panel must be trustworthy

Almost a year after its establishment, the national reconciliation committee has made little, if any, progress in nurturing unity in the country. This is not a surprise though.

There are a number of factors contributing to its inertia. To begin with, the 21-member panel, formed by parliament late last year following a series of violent episodes, has been shunned by conflicting parties, the government and the opposition as well as factions in the pro-democracy movement, be they the Redem, Car Mob, or Talu Gas groups which have staged a series of protests at Din Daeng intersection.

The government, which seems to focus on short-term political advantage, gave a lukewarm welcome to the panel's set-up. The opposition parties, meanwhile, ignored the panel from the beginning, saying it was a time-buying tactic.

Being ignored like this, the panel, which is chaired by Therdpong Chaiyanan, a Democrat list MP, and comprised of figures from academic circles, Senate and the cabinet, could barely function.

In order to improve its performance, the panel believes that its status must be upgraded to permanent, with laws governing its duties and functions. The permanent status will be discussed during a meeting on Nov 1, said Dr Wanchai Wattanasap, spokesman of the committee.

Being a permanent body would guarantee continuity in restoring unity, said Dr Wanchai, as he stressed the importance of political dialogue. The spokesman is well aware that such a law stipulating the committee's new status may not materialise in this parliament.

He noted that those with differing opinions refuse to listen to one another and the new status would bring change, as it would provide a mechanism to deal with conflicts, and problems could be resolved. He also expressed hope more people would listen to it. But why?

People will listen to the panel if it proves itself as a trustworthy, not permanent, body.

Before thinking about permanent status, the panel should transform itself from what appears to be a research unit into a true platform for political dialogue and do it in a more convincing manner for those in conflict to join formally or informally, while maintaining impartiality. It should also communicate more with the public and convince the people of its relevance.

In addition, committee chairman Therdpong must find ways to re-energise the organisation to gain confidence from others that it is a conflict-solving mechanism.

It must be realised that such a panel is not a panacea. The committee also needs to do more to garner cooperation from various actors to achieve its noble goals.

At the same time, the government should know it cannot be complacent with short-term political gains through political tactics and that it should review its stance toward the panel, treating it with much more respect.

The government must adopt a culture of listening to those with different opinions -- a basic principle in reconciliation. While it seems its political opponents may have been suppressed as a result of iron-fist measures, the conflicts remain and, if not addressed, are likely to blow up into political troubles worse than the Din Daeng violence.

Without preparations, complacency can result in political disaster and the road to reconciliation will be even more rocky.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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