Opposition skips first national unity panel meeting

Opposition skips first national unity panel meeting

Eleven members of the 21-man national reconciliation committee convened their first meeting on Monday amid criticism from the main opposition Pheu Thai Party that it might not have the authority to push for the recommendations for implementation.

House Speaker Chuan Leekpai, who proposed the establishment of the committee to restore national harmony and end the ongoing political conflict, showed up at the meeting to extend his moral support and outline his expectations.

The meeting was attended by the 11 members of the panel who were appointed last week, but not a single representatives from the opposition camp -- which refused to take part in the process -- came.

Despite the absence of opposition politicians, which critics saw as a weakness, Mr Chuan said the panel can still work towards resolving the conflict. He urged the committee to find a solution that will prevent future political conflicts, rather than one would only end the current stalemate.

"I have hope in the process but I don't expect it to be perfect. I want to see a dialogue and an exchange of opinions. [We] should focus on peace and national interest, not group or personal interest," he said.

Mr Chuan pledged his full support for the committee and asked it to submit a progress report in two weeks.

"Even though some groups don't have expectations, I do. Your experiences and expertise will help create a better understanding and coordination. That's what I hope," he said.

Before the meeting kicked off, it was agreed that no chairman would be appointed in the first meeting.

The committee is supposed to made up of 21 representatives from seven groups: two each from the government, government MPs, opposition MPs, senators, the protesters and other concerned groups, plus nine academics and experts.

The model was proposed by the King Prajadhipok's Institute, which was asked by Mr Chuan to look at possible structures of a panel for national harmony after parliament failed to agree on a solution to the current crisis following a two-day extraordinary session in October last year.

Sanguan Pongmaee, a Pheu Thai MP for Lamphun, doubted that the national reconciliation committee has the power to implement its recommendations.

However, he insisted that the opposition does not object to efforts to resolve the conflict.

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