Ji Ungpakorn has circulated his reaction to the Truth for Reconciliation Commission report and press conference. PPT reproduces it here:
The Thai Truth for Reconciliation Commission Sides With the Royalist Elites
Giles Ji Ungpakorn
It comes as no surprise that the full report published by the so-called “Truth for Reconciliation Commission” should side with the royalist elites. After all it was set up by the previous military appointed government. Its claims to be “independent” mean only that it is independent of any democratic accountability.
The Commission spends a lot of time talking about the so-called “men in black”, as though there was some kind of civil war between two sets of armed fighters. Yet the real picture, which they try to obscure, is that in 2010 the Abhisit Government and the army deployed tanks, armed soldiers and snipers against an unarmed group of protestors who were demanding democratic elections. We know that snipers fired live rounds against unarmed Red Shirts because the military’s own bullet audit shows this. There are numerous photos and videos of unarmed civilians being shot in the street by soldiers and there are the dead bodies of civilians, killed with military bullets. Nearly all the 90 odd deaths in April and May were civilians killed in this way. A mere handful of soldiers died after a grenade attack in April, probably from a rival military faction, and a couple died later by “friendly fire”. We cannot escape the obvious conclusion that a military-installed government deliberately killed unarmed protestors in order to avoid an election. Those responsible: the Prime Minister at the time and his deputy, the head of the army and the previous head of the army are all guilty of murder. The leaders of the 2006 coup should also be punished. For reconciliation to take place, justice must be done. But the Truth for Reconciliation Commission aims to sweep state crimes under the carpet.
All this commission can say about the army is a limp wrist call, begging the soldiers to be neutral and not to stage coups.
It is a different story when it comes to the monarchy. The Truth for Reconciliation Commission calls for robust measures, using the Lèse Majesté law, to punish those who insult the monarchy. It makes some meaningless suggestions about minor reforms of the law, but does not discuss the fact that the law itself is a serious obstacle to freedom of speech. Neither is there any suggestion that Lèse Majesté prisoners be immediately released.
The Commission says that the government should encourage more discussion about the monarchy in order that the people can understand its importance. Such discussions would not allow any debate about whether Thailand should be a republic. The old conservative excuse about Thai culture is used by the Commission to confirm that Thailand “must” remain with a monarchy and that there must not be any criticism of it. The reality of Thai society is that the monarchy was very unpopular during many periods of history: in the late 19th century, around the 1932 revolution, during the communist war and today.
The Thai monarchy is a political tool of the military, the bureaucracy and big business, who make up the ruling class. Protecting the monarchy is about protecting this class and has little to do with protecting the King himself who is weak and pathetic. The Commission, which is a ghastly off-spring of the ruling class is obviously protecting its own.
One of the reasons that I was charged with Lèse Majesté was because I wrote a book which asked whether the Constitutional Monarch should protect the Constitution from a military coup. Under the proposals from the Truth for Reconciliation Commission I could still face many years in jail for this question. I was lucky enough to manage to leave Thailand and go into exile. But Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and many other Lèse Majesté prisoners are rotting in jail for merely making political statements against the dictatorship after the 2006 coup.
The Truth for Reconciliation Commission report is a farce and a cover-up for the gross abuse of democracy and human rights committed by the Thai state. If people are looking for true reconciliation, they should support the proposals of the Nitirat Group, which seek to end the cycles of coups and build real justice in society.