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Uneasy Truce And Elusive Reconciliation

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by Thitinan Pongsudhirak

 

 

After the post-coup years of conflict and turmoil, Thailand at last has reached uneasy terms of a truce, which will be necessary for long-term reconciliation and the way forward. To take the remaining steps towards the hitherto elusive reconciliation will require more concessions from the main parties involved. The danger going forward is that what appear like huge concessions now may well turn out later to be too little, too late.

 

Front and centre in Thailand's impasse is Thaksin Shinawatra. After the party he controls, Pheu Thai, won the July last year, he effectively agreed to stay in exile. In his place as prime minister is Yingluck Shinawatra, his younger sister by 18 years. The Yingluck government has gone out of its way not to mess with the army's high command and to make the institution of the monarchy sacrosanct and its status and privilege non-negotiable, and it has been willing to crack down against dissent in the process. In return, she gets to rule, and Thaksin can bask in his electoral victory from outside the country.

 

A bridge between Thaksin and his enemies and opponents, Ms Yingluck emerged from the flood crisis last year in good form, and has gone from strength to strength, mainly on form and rarely on substance. Telegenic and attractive, she has been the right face to reflect electoral legitimacy for Thailand abroad.

 

At home, she hovers over her top job, rather than engages in it, equipped not with a formidable intellect, but an immense charm and common sense. It is EQ, not IQ, that is leading her way of leadership. Even her brother's coalition of opponents have yet to find a chink in her armour. :surprised:

 

Her government was exonerated by the Constitution Court earlier this year for launching controversial decrees to address flood woes and the Bank of Thailand's debt management. Personal charges against her have not stuck. And she was recently awarded one of the highest royal decorations.

 

It appears the more Ms Yingluck gets used to her job, the longer Thaksin will have to stay away. His characteristic impatience and presumably a sense of deprivation and vindication have produced various efforts by his supporters to bring him home. Yet each trial balloon from a royal pardon to a government-issued amnesty decree has failed to fly.

 

The more arduous road is the full-fledged parliamentary process, headed in a travesty of justice by Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, the chief coup maker from 2006. His reconciliation committee is paving the way for a forced reconciliation, backed up by recommendations from a study of comparative reconciliations by King Prajadhipok's Institute, a think-tank and public service training ground, ironically headed by a pro-establishment figure. The thrust of the study suggests the need to unwind some of the post-coup distortions and manipulations by scrapping results of the coup-appointed Assets Scrutiny Committee and promulgating a general amnesty for political wrongdoings. With these findings, the lower house's reconciliation committee has come up against a wall of opposition from inside and outside of parliament.

 

For the Democrat Party, any genuine reconciliation is tantamount to an indefinite period in opposition, since the current crop of party leaders does not appear to have what it takes to win elections. The yellow- and multi-colour partisans do not want reconciliation because Thaksin will surely be back. The signals from the established centres of power have been mixed. They may want enough truce for Thailand to move about in the world, but not enough reconciliation for Thaksin to come back. For Thaksin's opponents, reconciliation has mostly downside risks. Retribution and return to the Thaksin years are ominous.

 

Even the red shirts may not want reconciliation because they want justice for their fallen street protesters almost two years ago. Within Pheu Thai and in the cabinet, ahead of the May expiry of the five-year ban on politicians from Thaksin's juggernaut Thai Rak Thai Party, reconciliation could spell a loss of positions and influence.

 

But for Thaksin, reconciliation has mostly upside potential. It matters little to him if all the yellow shirt airport intruders of 2008 and all his other enemies over the years are cleared as long as he returns a free man. For him, it is an absolute rather than a relative proposition. The step forward from his side would be to offer his terms. What would he do if he were to return, and how might it be verified and enforced? It is doubtful that he is the sort of man who can sit quietly at home.

 

Thailand's problem is that Thaksin's opponents do not know what to do with him as much as he does not know what to do with himself. Surely, Thaksin must know that he can never be prime minister again after all that has been said and done in view of his trail of graft and abuses of power. His opponents also must surely know that Thailand will not see peace and stability as long as he is alive and well abroad with an election victory time and again in Thailand.

 

Time is on Thaksin's side, but it is of less relevance unless he can return. His opponents and enemies can resist, but they must acknowledge that Thailand has changed. A way out for them in this age of undeniable democracy is to win an election but they cannot. They ousted and convicted him, seized his assets, dissolved his parties, banned his politicians, repressed his supporters. Yet he keeps coming back through the polls.

 

How then does Thaksin's coalition of opponents see the terms of his return? With warts and all, the only electoral winner of Thai democracy in the early 21st century can be kept out only at the expense of Thailand's peace and stability.

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Thitinan Pongsudhirak is director of the Institute of Security and International Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University.

 

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wrong thread Flasher as there is nothing new in this news; everything has already been said!

 

I don't think I had seen "Ms Yingluck emerged from the flood crisis last year in good form..." before. That certainly qualifies as news!

 

Clearly, the article is not without its own bias.

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by Thitinan Pongsudhirak

 

It is EQ, not IQ, that is leading her way of leadership. Even her brother's coalition of opponents have yet to find a chink in her armour. :surprised:

 

 

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Who said that a politician needs IQ, many experts agree that GWB was around 70... Yingluck is at least 50 % higher - 105 or more... 5555

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