Govt threatens unity: KPI

Govt threatens unity: KPI

Tough law stance could spur protests

Incentive to learn: His Majesty the King hands a scholarship under His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn’s Scholarship Foundation to a student at Chitralada Palace. His Majesty is accompanied by Her Majesty the Queen. (Photo: Royal Household Bureau)
Incentive to learn: His Majesty the King hands a scholarship under His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn’s Scholarship Foundation to a student at Chitralada Palace. His Majesty is accompanied by Her Majesty the Queen. (Photo: Royal Household Bureau)

Parliament’s efforts to foster reconciliation may hit a stumbling block in the wake of the government’s stern threat to enforce the law against anti-government protesters, academics say.

Stithorn Thananitichot, director of the Office of Innovation for Democracy at King Prajadhipok’s Institute (KPI), said the warning, issued by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha last Thursday, could possibly hamper ongoing efforts to unite the country.

Last week, Gen Prayut said “all laws and all articles” will be enforced against protesters who broke the law, following street rallies in front of the parliament building by anti-government protesters calling for his resignation and reform of the monarchy.

The following day, the prime minister also hinted that Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law, will be among the laws and articles to be enforced against protesters.

Mr Stithorn said it was possible the protesters didn’t feel the need to ramp up their protest because the government didn’t take harsh actions against them.

However, now that the government has taken a tougher line, more violent clashes may break out, he told The Bangkok Post.

“Incidents in other countries have shown that reconciliation usually takes place once there are losses,” he said. “Lessons should be learned before there is any damage.

“Let’s hope it was just a mere threat by the government. The government should apply a political science [rather than harsh legal enforcement],’ ’Mr Stithorn said.

Mr Stithorn said that the KPI has presented two models for a reconciliation committee to parliament President Chuan Leekpai.

KPI was asked to suggest figures who should sit on the committee. The first would comprise representatives from seven groups, while the second would see the panel made up of ‘’neutral’’ representatives proposed by those involved.

Mr Stithorn said Mr Chuan initially opted for the second model and invited former prime ministers to be part of the panel.

But now, it is likely that Mr Chuan will choose the first model as there hasn’t been much progress in his plan to invite former prime ministers to join the proposed panel, he said.

That said, Somboon Uthaiwiankul, secretary to the Parliament President, said tomorrow, Mr Chuan will invite representatives of the government, opposition parties, senators and experts to discuss the reconciliation process based on the first model proposed by the KPI.

However, Wanwichit Boonprong, a political science lecturer at Rangsit University, said he believed strict law enforcement is an efficient way to handle the protesters.

He added that Section 112 may also deter the anti-government protesters, because the group may have to reassess their demands for monarchy reform in the face of lese majeste charges.

That said, Mr Wanwichit pointed out that the use of Section 112 will affect ongoing efforts to foster unity, because it will effectively sideline the youth protesters the process.

Anti-government protesters under the People’s Movement has said that it won’t be joining the parliament’s reconciliation panel, calling it a ruse to keep the prime minister in power.

Yutthaporn Issarachai, a political science lecturer atSukhothai Thammathirat Open University, said that the reconciliation panel will not succeed without a climate of mutual trust.

But now that the legitimacy of the government’s use of force has been called into question, it will be harder for the reconciliation bid to get off the ground, he said.

Kanokrat Lertchoosakul, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, said the threats of law enforcement won’t discourage the protesters.

She added that about three weeks have passed, but the reconciliation process has not yielded any concrete results.

“Section 112 will now be used even before the reconciliation process starts,” she said.

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