Easiest way to spell reconciliation: S – O – R – R – Y

Reconciliation has been an overused word in Thailand the last couple of years. Unfortunately it became more like a New Years resolution – everyone is talking about it but hardly anyone actually does anything about it. “But next year for sure…”. Thailand has three areas, where reconciliation should be on the table but somehow it is not. The incapability of creating a united Thai society has had a big burden to carry so far and the future is not looking any brighter – the burden is the cost of human lives. A report by “Action for People’s Democracy in Thailand (ACT4DEM)” outlines the cost and tragedy of “60 Years of Oppression and Suppression in Thailand”.

1. South: The Muslim insurgency is going on for decades now. The reasons for this conflict are complex and to solve the issue, it needs more than just saying sorry – although it is a start. Re-establishing the rule of law, providing equal chances to the Muslim population in political and social participation and refraining from human rights violations – from either side – in order to provide fair chances to develop economically are the core issues that have to be cleared anytime soon. Extending the state of emergency and granting the Army extensive executive powers is definitely the wrong sign in this matter. (I stated some posts before that I will further research the matter, therefore stay on hold on this topic but read the parts of 2004/2005 in the report above – a glimpse of why people down South have hostile sentiments towards the governing powers.)

2. East: Thailand is looking into the Preah Vihear temple case again. It has been fairly quiet now the last couple of months and ever since Yingluck was sworn in as PM, the chances have improved that the two countries will reach an agreement that leaves the countries becoming two peaceful neighbors and economic partners. Thailand is looking for a dialogue without international/ASEAN supervision, but if requested or necessary they will provide access to observers from Indonesia. Thailand is in the weaker position though. The ruling by the International Court of Justice in 1962 states, that the temple is situated on Cambodian sovereign territory. BUT, the ICJ did not rule on the vicinity of the temple. So, the ICJ has to be blamed for such an incompetency and therefore being a cause of armed conflict. It is up to the countries now how to further proceed, but given that the relationship with Cambodia has improved due to personal ties between Hun Sen and Thaksin, the point of time could not be better to deal with the issue.

3. North/East/South/West/Central – National reconciliation: An ever-present issue in the newspapers is national reconciliation. For the first time now, the court is starting hearings into the deaths of several civilians during the April/May 2010 clashes. That’s a start and it is important to deal with these issues in a legal and fair way. To reach a first step towards a unified society, the people have to be assured that they can trust the legislative powers and that everyone – no matter if Army, civilian, politician – is treated equally. Of course that’s not the case yet, but a proper investigation into the deaths and a conviction according to the evidence is in order to provide a basis where to start. That the story is by far more complex is clear. There was the coup in 2006, it’s Thaksin vs. Sonthi, yellow vs. red, elite vs. non-elite, and so on… Those issues will not be resolved over night but dealing with them step by step is (at least some) progress. And progress is what Thailand is in dire need of – the danger of regress is as ever-present as the word reconciliation and that is something to prevent of happening with all available peaceful/legal/fair means.

It is hard to say sorry sometimes – this might be one of the hardest things to say, especially when things are so twisted and complex. Sometimes it is better though to step back for the sake of the better. It might be about time for some in Thailand to do so (this to happen, it is just my wishful thinking here).

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