Thailand political reconciliation?

After eight weeks of street occupation by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) or widely known as the Red shirts, the stalemate of crisis that rooted on the leadership of the country, finally showed a light of positive actions. The reconciliation was offered by Thai Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva to end the crisis which made Thai economy suffered big loss in the past eight weeks due to rising insecurity for tourism and economic activities in the Bangkok area.

Abhisit, an Oxford educated politician, come up with five conditions which are essential in order to hold general election proposed on November 14 this year. The five conditions for a road map to reconciliation are (1) the monarchy must not be used as a tool in political conflicts, (2) the country must be reformed by tackling economic disparities and inequality, (3) the media must refrain from reports that exacerbate social or political conflicts, (4) an independent fact-finding panel must be appointed to review fatal incidents involving security forces and protesters and (5) the reconciliation process must be carried out with the cooperation of all sides.

But the reconciliation is not free from criticism. The Red shirt leaders who finally agreed on the proposal by the Premier after statement by ousted Premier, Thaksin Shinawatra, still perceived the proposal as unbalance and fear that the Army, Policy, and Provincial Administration annual reshuffle scheduled in September will deter a fair and free election in the three months period after reshuffle. The fear of Red shirts is not groundless. The close ties between Abhisit government-then-Democrat Party, and the Army  seen as the major influence that will affect the outcome of the election; though the pro-Thaksin region of Northern part provinces’ population would somehow predicted to secure the votes for Puea Thai Party-a loyal supporter of Thaksin after PPP was banned by Constitutional Court from politics following election fraud in December 2007 general election.

From the government’s point of view, the five proposals are necessary to ensure the outcome of the “Red forced” election will not give birth to another political conflict if tension is still at its climax. Government might also consider the passive yellow shirts formally known as People Alliance for Democracy (PAD) would enter the battlefield if the stalemate is to further exist in the(ir) streets of Bangkok. PAD and UDD (yellow and red) were clashed in the 2008 political crisis demanding resignation of Premier Samak Sundaravej over his Constitutional violation.

But, if the proposals are seriously taken into account and consider to be achieved by the six months period of Abhisit administration, everyone would unanimously agree that it’s not possible. How come a short six months can end economic disparity that last for almost a century in the country? Will the media restrict its reports on the crisis in order to solve the crisis?

However, under a deadlock situation of politics, it is predictably difficult to reach mediocre solutions since both parts are very much contending in their goals. Even an indirect message conveyed by the King Rama IX on the Appointment of new Judges demanded an understanding and calm mechanism of democracy has failed to ease the tension. It was Thaksin’s message to the Redshirts from abroad that successfully calmed his supporters. What can be drawn from this circumstance?

First, Thaksin is as powerful as he was for his redshirts supporters. This fact will remain as it is until the Abhisit administration resign or replaced by new faces after November election. Second, relevant to the King’s decreasing health condition, there is decreasing role the monarchy can play in the crisis. This opinioin is justified by one of proposals by the Abhisit administration which avoids monarchy intervention to end the crisis. Third, the election and dissolving the parliament are not the ultimate goals both party seek in the first place, therefore, the result is still questioned for its ability to actually resolve the stalemate in politics. The decision to go to polls will also support Fareed Zakaria argument that in illiberal democracy, election perceived as legitimating tools instead of a democratic process of competition for political offices as Schumpeterian democracy understands.

Finally, the start for reconciliation is a breakthrough in the current political crisis but not the end of it. Attention from all parties interest in the existing condition of Thai politics are still needed to affirm the well executed plan for national reconciliation.

Heru Prama Yuda

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