'Tough task in store' for reconciliation committee

'Tough task in store' for reconciliation committee

Defusing the escalating political tensions through a panel tasked with forging national reconciliation will be a tough challenge given the extremely complex nature of the conflict, says the head of the King Prajadhipok's Institute, the organisation that has been commissioned to study the committee's set-up.

The remark was made by Woothisarn Tanchai, the institute's secretary-general, after Parliament president Chuan Leekpai proposed establishing the reconciliation committee, and to hire the institute to study its composition as a possible solution to the current political conflict.

Mr Chuan's proposal came after the extraordinary two-day session in parliament, which ended on Tuesday, failed to yield any results to find a way out of the deteriorating political situation. Growing tension has been felt on the streets of Bangkok, where anti-dictatorship protesters have held mass rallies to press for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's resignation, a rewrite of the entire constitution and monarchy reform.

Adding to the tensions have been counter-protests by royalist groups. The mass protests by the two opposing camps have raised concerns over confrontations and violence.

Although no solution has been reached, Mr Chuan said the two-day session did agree that parliament should initiate a move to establish a committee to restore national harmony and end the current political conflict.

Mr Chuan said parliament should rely on the institute to provide suggestions on who should sit on the committee and whether representatives of the youth-led, anti-dictatorship protestors should also be invited to join.

Mr Woothisarn told the Bangkok Post that the committee has a very difficult task ahead of it.

"The issues to be thrashed out are far more complex than meets the eye. They are not centred on political discord alone, but involve deeply complex and delicate matters," he said.

The comment is understood to have been referring directly to the protesters' demand for monarchy reform.

Given the complexity of the issues to be addressed, the design and organisation of the committee would also be complicated, and for that reason, Mr Woothisarn said he would need to meet with Mr Chuan to seek clear directions on the objectives and roles of the proposed committee.

He added parliament would need to spell out political points to be covered by the panel.

Mr Woothisarn said the current political climate is unlike any conflicts seen in the past. This time around, the stakeholders and parties in the conflict are split into many groups, some without known leaders and identities.

It is no longer the case that successful talks with the leaders of conflicting groups might put an end to the tensions.

"The question has to do with what is expected of the committee, what it is authorised to do and how conflict resolution will be achieved.

"At this point in time, there's no clarity whatsoever," he said.

Former adviser to the charter drafting assembly Jade Donavanik said he thought it was beyond the institute's power to suggest terms for handling reform of the monarchy, adding that the most it could do involved changes to the constitution.

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