Ousted Thai party calls for independent reconciliation

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 08, 2017 6:09 AM

By Panarat Thepgumpanat and Aukkarapon Niyomyat

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The party ousted from power in a coup in Thailand in 2014 told a military-led reconciliation panel on Wednesday that political wounds could better be healed by an independent body.

But the Pheu Thai Party made no mention to the panel of its political godfather, former populist prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose fate has been at the heart of more than a decade of turmoil in the Southeast Asian country.

Party officials met for about three hours with the panel set up by the junta in February to try to seek common ground between Thailand's political rivals ahead of elections - not now expected before next year.

"We propose independent committees for the reconciliation," party legal adviser Pokin Polakul said after the meeting.

"This reconciliation talk is not going to end in three months or six months, but it will take more time. Even after the election, we must continue to talk."

Thailand's political divide broadly pits supporters of Thaksin's populist movement against a Bangkok-centered royalist and pro-army elite that backed the coup in 2014 which toppled a government led by Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's sister.

The army said it had intervened to end street protests and political chaos.

Thaksin himself was ousted in 2006 and lives in exile to escape a prison term for corruption charges which he says were politically motivated.

Although Pheu Thai did not mention Thaksin by name in its proposal to the panel, its suggestions did include "healing" for victims of political conflicts and injustice and "forgiveness" for those who inflicted them.

Thaksin's supporters hope that some sort of forgiveness would allow him to return home. His enemies would disapprove.

Defense ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantrawanich said digging up the past would stop Thailand moving forwards.

"Pheu Thai was determined and sincere in its proposals, and the talk was very useful for reconciliation efforts which will lead to democracy," Kongcheep said.

"Pheu Thai Party did discuss forgiveness but did not mention amnesty."

Street protests against amnesty bills introduced by Yingluck's government, which were widely believed to be aimed at allowing her brother to return to Thailand without prosecution, were a major factor in the last coup.

(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Robert Birsel)