Law cannot force people to love each other
Reconciliation is a good thing. Nobody disputes that. However, it is debatable whether it is a good thing when politicians of the ruling party attempt to introduce an amnesty bill claiming national reconciliation as justification, wrote Mr Somphol Trakulrung, a legal academic in Post Today.
If reconciliation is to love one another, be kind to others, and not hurt others, is it possible that just enacting an amnesty law can achieve that? Is a law so sacred that it can make people reconcile?
Mr Somphol noted that by definition, a law is a social regulation that regulates people's rights.
Demonstrators of the multi-coloured group gather to protest outside parliament earlier this month over the national reconciliation report. They fear the government will exploit its majority in the House to push for an amnesty bill that will allow Thaksin Shinawatra to return home a free man. CHANAT KATANYU
If there are no laws, society becomes lawless. Killing people would be allowed if there is no law to prohibit such an act.
It is a common axiom in the legal profession that the more laws are issued, the less freedom people have.
A law is a social regulation that aims for harmonious co-existence. There is a penalty meted out against those who cause harm to people and society. There has never been a law capable of forcing people to become good.
We have the Criminal Code, forbidding killing, stealing, raping. We have the Civil and Commerce Code which forces people to honour signed contracts.
All civil and criminal codes have associated penalties with the maximum penalty being death. Yet people still commit both civil and criminal offences and such cases will always occur, noted Mr Somphol.
This means that a law is not sacred by itself. A law cannot force people to be good people.
We have a law against concealing assets in order to prevent people avoiding taxes, but a certain influential person did not care, using his personal driver, gardener and personal secretary to be his proxies holding his shares in order not to pay so much tax for the income earned from the assets.
Even if a law prescribes a penalty for a transgression, it cannot always compel some people to respect the law and not transgress.
This reason should be realised by Thaksin Shinawatra because he received his doctorate in criminology. However, Mr Somphol wondered if Thaksin still accepts this fundamental legal principle or whether he has now adopted a new mantra that a law breaker need not be punished as he can be rescued by an amnesty law.
Mr Somphol noted that from his experience, reconciliation is achieved through personal reconciliation presided over by a judge.
Reconciliation can be achieved when both parties resort to the courts to protect their rights or demand justice, are able to voice their grievances and, when guided by the presiding judge, some can resolve their differences and achieve reconciliation. But the losing side can often say that they did not receive due justice.
It is the same situation with a certain person who fled overseas and told the world press that he did not receive justice even though he was fully represented by expensive lawyers and had a chance to defend himself in court. His constant mantra is ''I am not wrong. I didn't receive justice.''
Mediation by a judge can be successful because the judge can convince both parties not to resort to the law to settle a dispute. This is unlike parliament's effort which is a case of a majority of MPs attempting to issue a law to force people to end their conflict and forgive. This is unlikely to succeed as this law is not sacred. It is unnatural.
Legislation is not enough
Even though 307 MPs voted to accept the report by the House's National Reconciliation Committee, chaired by former coup leader Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, for it to be considered by the cabinet, some still see the government's effort to achieve national reconciliation as hasty and dictatorial.
Some accuse the government of using parliament as a tool to help former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. This leads to the concern that the national reconciliation push will generate a new round of political violence.
To delve deeper into the issue, Matichon interviewed Prof Chaiwat Sathanan of the Political Science Faculty at Thammasat University who this year is the recipient of the Sriburapha Award for his academic work on national reconciliation.
Can the national reconciliation act solve social divisiveness?
I don't know. I am not sure that national reconciliation can be achieved by passing a law as advocated by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung because this law will be rammed through parliament with fierce opposition from a minority who still represent quite a large number of people. So I am not sure that national reconciliation can be achieved through passing a law. However, if we talk about amnesty, then it is another issue.
It seems there are many dimensions of divisiveness?
Looking back at our report on national reconciliation for the deep South chaired by former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, we pointed out that to achieve national reconciliation, one, the facts must be established, two, justice must be carried out, and three, someone must accept responsibility. If a person hurts others, he must acknowledge his action but this does not always mean that punishment is meted out.
A reconciliation model is not about meting out punishment but forgiving when the wrongdoer acknowledges his guilt. To forgive is not the same thing as to forget. If you forget, what is there to forgive? We must remember but be ready to forgive.
To forgive, there are two tools: peaceful resolution and national dialogue. These tools are employed to create a new society, stronger with a new outlook and compassion towards fellow citizens; deal with the painful memories of those who died or were hurt from the conflicts; deal with risks, especially about the ugly truths in Thai society. For example, could the military accept the fact that some elements in the army were the masterminds behind the men in black who killed several soldiers and their commander last year?
Some propose issuing an announcement similar to PM Office's Announcement 66/23 successfully carried out during the Prem Tinsulanonda government.
The 66/23 announcement was a policy that hinged on the magnanimousness of Thai society to forgive. I am not sure that such conditions can apply today. The conflicts are not the same. I am not sure that Thai society right now is magnanimous enough or ready to forgive.
What about the negotiations between Thaksin and Gen Prem?
Focusing only on the conflicting players may not solve the problems. The fact that Gen Prem and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra walked together projected a lessening of political tension. Yet several TV programmes on both sides still did not see eye-to-eye on this.
When former UN secretary-general Kofi Anan visited Thailand as a guest of Thailand's Independent Truth and National Reconciliation Commission, he revealed that the success of [South Africa's] Truth and Reconciliation Commission could be attributed to three people: Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and F W de Klerk, all of whom received the Nobel Peace Prize. The last person was not commonly mentioned by the press but Mr Anan noted that Mr de Klerk represented the minority whites who ruled South Africa for over a hundred years. If he had not agreed to participate in the TRC, many more people would have died.
How can we adopt the South African model?
This model points out the problem. However, the problem is unique for each country and must be resolved with this context in mind. In the South African case, political and spiritual leaders played an important role. It could be the case in Thailand together with other contributing factors.
Maj Gen Sanan Kachornprasart proposed revealing the truth behind the Sept 19 coup?
Revealing the truth can make it better or worse. It depends on the time and situation. The truth alone is not enough as society will demand justice and compensation. In some countries like Rwanda, revealing the truth of who killed whom, who ordered the killings made things worse. Truth can be expensive.