Prawit stands by government's unity effort

Prawit stands by government's unity effort

Deputy PM vows to turn pact into reality

Deputy Prime Minister in charge of reconciliation Prawit Wongsuwon vows that this time, unity efforts won't be just a piece-of-paper process.
Deputy Prime Minister in charge of reconciliation Prawit Wongsuwon vows that this time, unity efforts won't be just a piece-of-paper process.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has defended the much-criticised unity pact at the heart of the government's effort to forge national reconciliation, insisting it will not turn into another "piece of paper" with only well-read content.

Amid criticism of whether the pact, known widely as a memorandum of understanding (MoU), can successfully bring all rival camps together, Gen Prawit asked critics Thursday not to jump to conclusions until the process starts to take shape.

He disagrees with comments the MoU is just another "piece of paper". Officials are working hard on the government's attempts to put an end to the decade-long political conflict and the criticism was not fair to them, he said.

''We'll turn the MoU into a reality," Gen Prawit promised.

The pact aims to serve as a social contract which parties and groups are invited to sign to promote social harmony.

They would commit to accepting an elected government as well as not hindering elections or fighting with one another, according to examples given earlier by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

What the government wants is for all parties to join a process to rebuild national unity even if they are not required to sign the MoU, Gen Prawit said.

The core of the process is that participants should feel free to express their opinions to end their woes, said the deputy prime minister, who is in charge of the reconciliation process.

The MoU will then be drafted, he said, adding it could later be developed into a law, provided it is supported by all sides.

At the moment, Gen Prawit said, the government wants opinions to be used as input for the reconciliation process.

Also Thursday, Red-shirt co-leader Nattawut Saikuar applauded the latest effort to restore peace to society.

The move creates a "good atmosphere", he said, although he suspected the government may be pursuing a hidden agenda.

"I wonder whether people in power have a 'reconciliation formula' in mind," he said. The formula may come into effect after people's opinions are gathered, Mr Nattawut said.

The government is setting up a steering panel of eminent persons to help guide the process.

But no matter what role the government is taking, Mr Nattawut insisted his group will not hinder the path toward national reconciliation.

His group was recently asked by the National Reform Steering Assembly to air its views on reconciliation. It is preparing to call a meeting on the issue, he said.

Mr Nattawut is a co-leader of the pro-Thaksin United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), an ally of the Pheu Thai Party which stands firm in its stance of opposing the coup which installed the present military-led government.

The UDD, which has won support mainly from rural people in the North and Northeast, is a major group crucial to efforts to achieve unity.

Like the UDD, the now-defunct People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), whose mass protests against the Yingluck Shinawatra administration led to the May 22 coup in 2014 ending the political stalemate, is also likely to play a key role in the unity process.

Suthep Thaugsuban, former leader of anti-Thaksin PDRC, said earlier he supports attempts to restore peace in society though he will not sign the MoU.

Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan said he still has no idea of how reconciliation will take shape and whether a new law will be drafted as a result.

However, the new charter is being made to promote unity, he said, assuring that all sides will be treated fairly on the road to reconciliation.

In another development, Gen Prayut Thursday urged people to prepare for an election. He made his comments as he was visiting flood victims in Surat Thani's Phunphin district.

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