The New York Times has a different angle on the reporting of the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand’s report released today than seen in several Thai newspapers, where the story has been about so-called men in black.
In this report they are mentioned, but the focus shifts to the use of a sniper to assassinate Maj-Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol, shot while being interviewed by Thomas Fuller of the NYT. There is no surprise that the report says he “was assassinated by a sniper most likely located in a building controlled by the authorities.”
The report cites Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch, who praises the report “as balanced” with “neutral evidence and forensic science.” Sunai adds: “This is the first report in modern Thai political history that investigates violence from all sides…”. Sunai is also quoted in another report, at The Nation (see link below), as saying this was an “impartial inquiry.”
We might note that HRW produced its own report, which Sunai appears to be ditching. PPT is keen to see the forensic evidence because that was entirely missing from the HRW report. At the same time, claims about impartiality should be tempered by the knowledge that the TRCT was established by the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration. Few of its members can be considered impartial on the political conflicts of recent years. That comment doesn’t mean the report can be rejected out of hand. But nor should Sunai be simply lauding the report; it has to be critically assessed.
The NYT report has another interesting comment, observing that “the head of the commission, Kanit Nanakorn, called on Thaksin Shinawatra … to ‘sacrifice’ and withdraw from politics.”
This is a suggestion that has to be read for what it doesn’t say. Kanit’s call is for Thaksin, Thailand’s most popular elected leader ever to step aside. Pro-Thaksin parties have won every election since 2000, usually by a substantial margin. Yet Kanit wants him to stay out of politics. Kanit seems to think that Thaksin, because the elite hates him, needs to sacrifice himself. Where’s the impartiality that Sunai lauds? Should the king, queen, Prem Tinsulanonda and the military also stand aside from politics (not that they have been elected)?
The commission’s report gets very partial when it demands that: “All parties must express a clear intent to venerate the monarchy as being above all political conflicts…”. The call seems to be that the monarchy is critical for Thailand. It isn’t, but it is critical for the royalist state and its rule.
At The Nation, the argument seems to be that the TRCT report has to be venerated
for its “impartiality,” warning that “people should not use the findings to create more rifts.”
However, some prominent red shirts, such as academic Suda Rangkupan, said the report contained more falsehoods than truths. “Who are the killers? No conclusion has been reached about the men in green,” she said, referring to the Army. “There is more false information than fact. It will be the beginning of another round of conflicts.”
As noted above, the TRCT report should be examined and critically considered, not lauded and praised just because the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s carefully selected commission has finally reported.
Update 1: A reader tells us that the paper edition of the International Herald Tribune in Thailand today stops its report from the NYT at the phrase “vacuum of moral authority” thus leaving out reference to the comments about venerating the monarchy noted above and the need to review the lese majeste law (something PPT should have added above as well).
Update 2: The TRCT report, in a 276-page PDF, is available for download, in Thai.