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A Public Forum on Reconciliation and Charter Change: Underpinnings and Scenarios

Description: logoเธชเธดเธ‡เธซเนŒเธ”เธณ.tifDescription: logoเธชเธดเธ‡เธซเนŒเธ”เธณ.tifA Public Forum on

Reconciliation and Charter Change:

Underpinnings and Scenarios 


Tuesday, 3 July 2012 at 09.00 – 11.45 a.m. 

The Chumbhot-Pantip Conference Room, 4th Floor Prajadhipok-Rambhaibarni Building

Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University


08.30 – 09.00 a.m.                  Registration and Coffee

09.00 – 09.10 a.m.                  Welcome Remarks

                                                Prof. Dr. Supachai Yavaprabhas

                                                Dean, Faculty of Political Science

09.10 – 11.00 a.m.                  Panelists 
                                                Prof.Dr. Suchit Bunbongkarn

Former Constitutional Court Judge

Emeritus Professor and former Dean,

Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

                                                Chairman of Political Development Council (PDC) 

                                                Prof.Dr. Duncan McCargo

                                                Professor of Southeast Asian Politics, University of Leeds

                                                Author of Award-winning Tearing Apart the Land:

                                                Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand and numerous books

and articles on Thai society and politics

                                                Assoc.Prof.Dr. Panitan Wattayayagorn

Foreign Affairs Adviser to Opposition Leader

                                                Former Deputy Secretary General to the Prime Minister

                                                Former Acting Government Spokesman

                                                Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

                                                Assoc.Prof.Dr. Thitinan Pongsudhirak

                                                Director of ISIS Thailand

                                                Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University


                                                Dr. Naruemon Thabchumpon

                                                Director of International Development Studies Program

                                                Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

11.00 – 11.45 a.m.                  Q&A



Opening remarks by Dean of Political Science Faculty, Dr. Supachai Yavaprabhas

Dr. Suchit Bunbongkarn:

To what extent can the effort to launch charter amendments and enact the reconciliation bill help  resolve the society disparity?

Reconciliation cannot be achieved through legislation. Promulgating the law must also take into account of the enforceability.  Reconciliation can’t be forced by the law; rather it must be by “consent” of all sides. At present, there is no environment of consent or willingness to reconcile. Enacting the reconciliation bill would only worsen the conflict and the political situation in society. Even if the bill passed, the division remains, considering the extreme stances; either for or against Thanksin.  And, there is ideological conflict between those seeking  radical  change and those seeking gradual change in society.

Red Shirts: Their movement seems to be successful since the government they support is now in power. However, the movement is compiled of several fractions with different political views include both the businessmen and grassroots people, moderate and hardcore people. Although the coalition is diverse, it does work when its parts find common interest, such as in the continuation of public respect for Thaksin.. But, how long will this cooperation continue?

Conservative forces: They are currently minority in the parliament. Democrat is more or less political arm for conservatives. Back in the day of PriDee Panomyong, the Democrats organized  as a pro-royalist, conservative and liberal grouping. The Democrats and conservative are courting the “silent majority”.

The reconciliation bill was initiated by the ruling political party and there is a hidden political agenda is there.

I don’t think the new constitution would resolve the nation disparity. Each  new regime always wants to amend the charter to strengthen their power.  In 1991, the draft was completely rewritten by the military junta. However, the 1997 Charter was not proposed by any political party, but proposed by civil society,  scholars and NGOs.  Frequent charter amendment reflects the distrust among the public, political power seekers, and institutions.

The Court decision: regardless of how the ruling will turn out, the situation will not be improved. If the court rules the bill constitutional, the parliamentary procedures will continue with the establishment of the charter draft assembly. The process of electing the assembly will definitely be politicizing. And the protest of those who are against the bill can be expected. If the court rules the bill unconstitutional, the consequences will be interesting. The court is accused by the bill supporters of exercising the power in a way that intervene the parliamentary system.

These days people tend to rely more on the courts for justice, including the administrative court, or even the constitutional court as they cannot trust the politicians and government. Expectation has risen thus put more pressure on the courts, and making the judicial branch become more vulnerable.

If the reconciliation bill cannot solve the problem, what shall we do? We have to allow existing  diversion of political wings. How can we allow them to live together in peace? No violence or clashes. The ideal goal is to create unity in diversity. Legislation can’t resolve every problem in the country, confirmed by 18 constitutions in the past 80 years. Next question is how we achieve justice – not only social justice but also economic. 

We have forgotten the foundation of democracy which is the people.

The Red Shirt movement continues to inform the people at the local level constantly through community radio and cable tv program about their so called “ideology”, meaning  to turn the people away from their traditional ways of life. The government should do something although it is reluctant to be explicit in pushing the reconciliation bill and charter change.

For the sake of Thai society, the government and coalition parties should not rush on reconciliation and charter amendment. 



Q: As the law can’t resolve problem and bring about justice, so how justice can be created?

A: Strengthen local community so they can cope with the influence of political or capitalism.

New balance will occur.

Q:  -- inaudible --

A: Those propose the charter amendment never say why the current constitution should be amended, and never say what should be added or amended, never say what the new charter should be like.

Q: Where the role of balance and separation of power on democratization?

A: Unlike the US system, we have to do everything under the framework of constitutional monarchy and parliamentary government. Thus, a new balance of power --the independent bodies like Counter corruption commission, constitutional court, administrative court, have been established.

Effected interest groups might argue that the court intervene the legislative power. However, in the new check and balance system, the court is allowed to deliberate upon the compliant. We shouldn’t presume that the court will rule against the reconciliation bill. The real decision hasn’t come out yet.

The Yellow Shirt these days lack leadership. Their power declined when they campaigned as a new political party. The red shirt feels that the PAD is on a decline so they proposed the reconciliation bill. And that is sort of a wakeup call for yellow shirts. However, the PAD movement cannot be underestimated since there are several groups associated with the yellow shirt, not just the conservative force.


Dr. Duncan McCargo:

During Thanksin (2005-2006), the national reconciliation commission focussed on the Deep South provinces was established, chaired by –Anand Panyarachun, Praves Wasee. The commission with 50 commissioners held many meetings, but produced disappointing reports as they were lack of concrete analysis.  It did not address the real question, and did not propose  the solution. The set of committee being established is similar to the charter drafting process on the phenomenon of committee creation with no concrete result.  Later in 2010, during Abhisit administration, 3 committees were established comprise of the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (TRCT) chaired by Kanit Na Nakorn along with another two committee, which later dissolved themselves, chaired by again Anand Panyarachun, Praves Wasee.  The main issue is what these committees were tasked with and will their  reports still be useful when released.

TRCT’s Mission: (1) to investigate and determine the truth about violence occurred during April and May 2010 and to determine the root causes of the conflict and violence in the country; (2) recommend short term and long term restoration measures for individuals, organizations and institutions affected by the violence; (3) recommend measures to prevent further conflict and future violence and losses from occurring. How can these missions be achieved with limited resources and personnel?

Q: How to reconcile among people? How one side can reach out to the other whose stance is the opposite? How the commission can investigate and determine the truth without having the power to subpoena witnesses. How can you promote reconciliation? “Truth for Reconciliation” means acquiring the truth is a prerequisite for reconciliation. Do we really need to get to the bottom of the truth to achieve reconciliation?

Dr.Praves Wasee once said “Reconciliation is the thought for the past while ‘reform’ is the thought for the future”.

How can you tackle culture of impunity? What kind of national effort to address culture of impunity?  How can you set up the trust building condition in the reconciliation process?  TRCT report is expected within two-three weeks, then we will know what TRCT has achieved. Will there be any names mentioned? The word ‘reconciliation’ itself has to be reconciled as it was apparently hijacked with the proposed reconciliation bill in the parliamentary session.  The bill could lead to another protest regarding whether the bill is actually an amnesty bill.  The process of fact finding by TRCT and proposing reconciliation bill are totally divided.


Dr.Panitan Wattanayagorn:

There are 3 underpinning in Thailand:

(1) Tremendous changes in Thai society: increased population and expanded economy causes social force in short period of time.

(2) Forces behind problems:

2.1 conservative forces/ establishment forces, which remain unchanged, are monarchy, elites, military, and the bureaucracy. The conservative force includes Thaksin

2.2 The emerging of Two Parties System of Political party: 5 victories in general election for Thai Rak Thai/Puea Thai.  However, the Democrats  also rise up interestingly.

2.3 The People power (NGOs, PAD, UDD): it is a phenomenon that will prolong conflict as seen in the form of street protest.

(3) Confrontation between conservative rules vs. democratic rule during a transition from a transitional democracy to a more established democracy. The movement of various groups of people   (yellow/red/multicolor/scholars/etc.) occurred in resistant of the transition in the country of which is dominated or manipulated by particular group of people of power.               

3 Scenarios:

(1) Certainty: parliamentary system is of course here to stay. The New blood that is more sophisticated is coming in the parliament and bureaucracies system. No party has the absolute power to override the others. The system itself will gradually be improved overtime toward more democratic rule.

(2) Administration’s lack of leadership in handling short term crisis: the PM needs to divert herself away from her brother and establish her own credibility.

(3) Conflict on the streets if political and personal issues will not be separated from the national interest. The government’s incompetent monitoring of alternative media i.e. community radio could lead to even more violence.


Dr. Thitinan Pongsudhirak:

Spoke on: Illusive reconciliation and constitutional amendment

“Thailand is in a mist of the Royalist Lockdown and Long Goodbye”

1. Royalist lockdown:

- Reconciliation atmosphere vaporized quickly, regardless of PM meeting with the Privy council President

- The 2007 constitution was drafted after the coup and by the coup appointed assembly. It was meant to pass first and amend it late.  The constitution is flawed but change does not seem possible.

- The Red Shirts should be seen as a resurrection parallel to 1912-32.  There is radicalization in the face of no concessions.

            - We will see more judicial assertiveness and the courts are losing credibility.

            - the fundamental problem is electoral winners can’t rule, rulers can’t win elections (2007-2012)

2. in the mist of long goodbye

- A cold war order enters twilight – Thailand hasn’t become a communist, and has a critical mass of econ development.

            - A needed recalibration and a new consensus

            - Long goodbye and endgame

            - Political convulsions during twilight

            - Concessions could be slippery

3. Twilight scenarios

(1) During twilight, establishment reforms and adjustments take place: a recalibrated constitutional monarchy rises

(2) Nothing changes: royalist lockdown holds; pent-up anti-monarchy sentiments; explosive changes thereafter; This is an unpredictable “Hail Mary”.

(3) Nothing changes: twilight with establishment’s moral authority increasingly rejected; clash and confrontation; post-twilight, a completely new order (the most unwanted scenario)



Q1: Why the panelists tend to foresee the decision of the constitutional court on the bill to be unconstitutional?

Q2: What will be the new order between Cold War and Liberal State?

Q3: Why are there so many constitutions?

Q4: Is reconciliation the only answer?



Dr.McCargo: Thai society is definitely changing. I would like to be optimistic that people are more sophisticated and knowledgeable. Comparing with Japan’s constitution, particularly article 9 which renounced the military power and now has to be gradually adjusted in the face of circumstances.


Dr.Panitan: There is a sign of establishing democracy as more people are interested in the Constitution. The trend of check and balance mechanism is emerging as some groups of people try to manipulate the process. As all sides continue to share same worries on economic/King/parliamentary health, the dynamic of mutual interest is emerging and is a positive trend.


Dr.Thitinan: Although the conflict is huge, the degree of separation between Yellow and Red is very small. So when the conditions and timing are right, it is not that difficult for both sides to agree on something.


Q:  Is it a new phenomenon that the court was involved and played a crucial role in the political process?

Q: Could it be the legitimacy crisis in Thailand once again?

Q: Will the word ‘reconciliation’ become meaningless? 



The King Prachadhipok Institute’s report addressed the legitimacy issue saying there is a clash between legitimacy of the executive driven by majority rule versus the morality of the executive rule. There is certainly a fundamental disconnect between the idea of virtuous rule and representative rule, let alone the participatory rule.

Rural vs. Urban people: Nowadays, it becomes urbanizing villagers. People do not live where their vote.



The Role of Constitutional Court is quite interesting; referring to last year the Democrat’s petition asking the court to struck down the emergency decree regarding the allocating of financial assistance to victims in the flood crisis last year. And the decision was made in favor of the government. The court itself is also learning. The court has its own mind to protect the judicial system as well as the Thai democratic system. Reconciliation needs time, dialogue, fact finding, that will take months. Although the reform needs the change in formal structure to cope with the new crisis and globalization, the informal structure in Thailand, including the Thais, is refusingd to change.