Govt plans 3-month 'brainstorming' for unity

Govt plans 3-month 'brainstorming' for unity

Critics slam lack of diversity in committee

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon

The government has made plans to compile opinions from all sides over three months on what should be done to bring about national reconciliation, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said yesterday.

After the three-month brainstorming period, the opinions will be compiled and published for the public before the next step to improve national unity, said Gen Prawit, who oversees the government panel on national reconciliation and strategy.

In response to criticism that the government committee being formed to oversee national reconciliation is likely to comprise of mostly military personnel, Gen Prawit said that should not be a problem because the armed forces are politically neutral and they don't have conflicts with any side.

Military personnel who are likely to become members of the reconciliation committee are all senior officers, he said, adding the final list for the reconciliation committee will be revealed in the coming week.

The likelihood that the committee will consist mainly of military personnel has drawn criticism from some political pundits who expressed doubt over the committee's ability to lead national reconciliation efforts.

National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) member Gen Ekkachai Srivilas, for instance, on Wednesday said the government's move to set up the committee to oversee the national reconciliation process may not work as it is mostly made up of military personnel.

Chartthaipattana Party director Nikorn Chamnong, who is also a member of the NRSA's steering committee on political reform, on Thursday called for more diversity in the composition of the committee.

Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday proposed that "neutral" academics and experts be included on the new committee entrusted with fostering national reconciliation.

Pledging to support all initiatives that would benefit the country and people, Ms Yingluck however pointed out that national reconciliation would be achieved only if all sides strictly adhere to the principles of neutrality, equity and the rule of law.

Fairness must be ensured for all engaged in political conflicts so peace and national reconciliation can be achieved and the country is able to move forward, she said.

Ms Yingluck said neutral people, especially academics, should be invited to sit on the reconciliation committee because their viewpoints and knowledge will be beneficial for drafting a reconciliation proposal that should be made acceptable to all.

Pheu Thai Party acting secretary-general Phumtham Vechayachai said the political conflicts that needed to be reconciled do not involve only politicians but also several other groups and organisations.

That's why it is necessary to get all concerned parties involved in the effort to achieve national reconciliation, said Mr Phumtham, adding reconciliation cannot be achieved if only conflicting politicians meet to patch up their disputes and sign a memorandum of understanding.

More importantly, it is crucial to first identify the root causes of the conflicts, he said.

The defunct Truth for Reconciliation Commission and King Prajadhipok's Institute had already conducted a study on the matter and produced detailed results, he said.

The government should therefore consider using the study's results in its efforts to improve national reconciliation along with input from other sources, he said.

It is important to ensure neutrality, independence and morality as well as keep up the overall reputation of those who sit on the reconciliation committee, he said.

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