Junta mulls 'unity dialogue' before poll
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Junta mulls 'unity dialogue' before poll

Prawit loses cool when quizzed over amnesty

The government feels a 'reconciliation dialogue' could bridge the political divide and lead to calm elections some times next year. (Post Today graphic)
The government feels a 'reconciliation dialogue' could bridge the political divide and lead to calm elections some times next year. (Post Today graphic)

The government is considering inviting all political parties and groups to join a dialogue to end the political divide and achieve reconciliation before fresh elections take place.

The prospect of an inclusive dialogue was floated Tuesday by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon who has been put in charge of the reconciliation process.

He said the dialogue will have representatives from all political parties and groups taking part, adding the goal is to iron out differences and establish guidelines that will promote unity.

However, Gen Prawit said he is unlikely to lead the process.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's latest roadmap promise to hold elections before the end of the year expired Tuesday, when he revealed His Majesty the King had requested changes to the junta's constitution before it is promulgated.

This will take up to five months or even more, making polls in 2017 impossible.

Gen Prawit said he will assign a senior government figure to take charge of unity talks, should they occur, adding national reconciliation should be attained before a general election takes place.

"I really want all groups to live peacefully. There must be rules acceptable to all sides. But I haven't thought about how things will turn out in the end and it's best if the media doesn't try to speculate," he said.

The deputy premier appeared frustrated when asked if an amnesty would be part of the process to foster national reconciliation. He insisted that ongoing criminal proceedings would continue.

"I won't discuss any cases that are ongoing under the legal process. Don't drag these into it," he said.

Meanwhile, Seree Suwanphanon, a member of the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA), said a proposal on national reconciliation will be submitted to the asssembly for approval later this month.

The proposal, prepared by the NRSA's committee on political reforms which he chairs, is expected to be forwarded to NRSA whips on Jan 19 and to the assembly either on Jan 23 or Jan 24.

According to Mr Seree, the proposal is designed to address political divisions, and focuses on cases which took place amid the political unrest between Sept 19, 2006 and May 22, 2015.

The cases are divided into two categories -- the first involving protest leaders and the other involving demonstrators -- and the offences are categorised into two groups, minor and serious.

Under the proposal, demonstrators charged with minor offences will see their cases dismissed if they plead guilty.

They will then be barred from taking part in activities that lead to divisions, otherwise court proceedings against them will resume.

Mr Seree said minor offences include trespassing in government offices but the defendants must prove they did not take part in activities that caused property damage such as torching buildings.

As for serious offences, defendants must prove their innocence in court, but if they choose to plead guilty they will be eligible for leniency in sentencing, he said.

The NRSA member denied the proposal is an amnesty for political offenders, saying the measures, unlike an amnesty, do not seek to whitewash people's records.

Mr Seree said offenders will have their punishments suspended if they plead guilty.

He insisted those who have fled abroad and have been convicted will not benefit, nor will people charged with lese majeste or corruption.

Mr Seree said people who believe they have been unfairly accused or wrongfully charged can choose to fight the charges in court to clear themselves.

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