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Thailand reform forum under attack
Publication Date : 11-08-2013
The government yesterday defended its plan to invite foreign leaders to contribute to Thailand's political reform effort, amid claims by the opposition that the administration is just seeking legitimacy and moving in the wrong direction.
The idea to invite foreign leaders to join a political reform forum here is just an attempt to create legitimacy for itself, senior Democrat Party MP Ongart Klampaiboon said.
Ongart was responding to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's statement on Friday that the government had invited foreign leaders and former leaders to join in a forum titled "Uniting for the future: Learning from each other’s experiences" to be held on September 2.
"It is just an attempt to create legitimacy by involving foreign leaders in a political farce and link it to the political reform council," he said.
"These leaders have already come to Thailand in the past and used to comment on solutions for Thailand's political conflicts. There is no need to invite them again but just to go back and study [the situation]," he said.
Democrat MP Nipit Intarasombat said the government was going in the wrong direction if it wanted to achieve reconciliation.
"When people see the names of Tony Blair and Kofi Annan, they are excited. But it is going to work that way. These people are not stakeholders. When you talk about reconciliation, you should bring the stakeholders to talk together. This way is the wrong way," he said.
"Why should we get Westerners to tell us what Thais should do? Thais must talk to each other. But then why doesn't the government listen to the UN [United Nations] when [the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights] which is a global agency said in its capacity that this amnesty [bill being deliberated in Parliament] would bring problems?" he said.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister and Pheu Thai Party leader Charupong Ruangsuwan said inviting foreign leaders would help the country in many aspects, especially investment.
"A country's reform should look into what the global community needs too. Inviting country leaders with potential to join in such talks will be useful and reflect broad visions of the premier," he said.
Thaikorn Polsuwan, leader of the anti-government People's Army to Overthrow the Thaksin Regime disagreed with the idea to invite foreign leaders to join a political forum in Thailand.
"The government is drawing foreigners to interfere in Thailand's internal affairs by inviting former British premier Tony Blair and former secretary-general of the United Nations Kofi Annan, who is a Nobel laureate to guide a way to reconciliation. [But] they are not really knowledgeable about Thai conflicts and how severe the conflicts really are," Thaikorn said.
Last week, Yingluck proposed the setting up of a political reform body and invited all parties in Thai society to join and propose ideas for solutions. Deputy PM Phongthep Thepkanjana and PM's Office Minister and Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Varathep Ratanakorn have been asked to invite prominent people to join.
Varathep said yesterday said that, as many people had agreed to take part, a first reform forum could be called after Parliament debates the 2014 Budget Bill. That is set for Wednesday and Thursday. But he said the yellow-shirt People's Alliance for Democracy did not want to attend.
Pheu Thai spokesman Anusorn Eiamsa-ard said the Democrats should not set too many conditions against efforts to bring about reconciliation and political reform. "The Democrats compared PM Yingluck Shinawatra, who just signed her name but did not join the House meeting scrutinising the amnesty bill, to a student skipping class. The Democrats are picking too small issues to attack. Please, Yingluck is a busy premier and defence minister," he said.
Those who agreed to join the reform forum include former PM Banharn Silapa-archa, former Senate Speaker Ukrit Mongkolnavin, former House speaker Uthai Pimchaichon, Senate Speaker Nikom Wairatpanij and 2006 coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin.