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Each claims his own version of the truth

Publication Date : 27-09-2012


I am not sure how many people have read the 276-page full report issued last week by Thailand's Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (TRCT) headed by Dr Kanit na Nakhon. But I am certain that few Thais appreciate the gruelling task the commission undertook in very trying circumstances.

Most people probably like the parts of the report that fit their own biases. That's why most citizens will still be divided after reading the findings. They will all wish that the other portions of the report - those that aren't very favourable to their side of the story - were left out.

Basically, the report concludes that both sides in the violent confrontation of May 2010 must take the blame for the deaths and injuries in the street face-off. In other words, both the Abhisit Vejjajiva government at the time and the red-shirt leaders who engineered the demonstrations must be responsible for what followed.

A Dusit Poll found 53.7 per cent of respondents in support of the findings. But what irked red-shirt leaders was the commission's confirmation that reports of armed "men in black" shooting and killing government troops. They are still at large. The report also said that the armed men were close to the late Major General Katiya Sawasdiphol, and were given assistance by red-shirt guards, though no evidence was found to prove that they were also close to the red-shirt leaders.

On the other side of the scale, the TRCT pointed an accusing finger at the government's control command centre for using real weapons against the demonstrators. It said that, even if troops claimed that "men in black" were mingling with the protesters, that wasn't a valid excuse for soldiers to fire live bullets at the demonstrators.

The report blames the government for its failure to use the police to control the demonstrators, necessitating the deployment of military personnel. And the lack of an efficient monitoring system resulted in heavy losses on the part of the protesters.

Any neutral observer would think the TRCT is trying hard to walk a tightrope. It was never going to be an easy balancing act - and many members of the commission knew from the outset that, whatever the conclusions of the panel, they were going to be the target of criticism.

Now the ruling Pheu Thai Party has demanded a new investigation into the 2010 violence, arguing that it is "dismayed" by the TRCT's report. The new committee will try to prove that the TRCT is wrong about its findings regarding the "men in black" - and the trajectories of the bullets fired by security forces during the violence.

Former premier Abhisit's reaction to the report wasn't altogether favourable either. He asked that the commission provide more details of the findings to the public despite the fact that its term has ended.

Neither Premier Yingluck Shinawatra nor Abhisit can really challenge the TRCT's findings. After all, Abhisit appointed the commission in the first place. It was made clear from the beginning that the panel would be "independent" of any political influence. And when Yingluck took over as premier she extended the commission's term, confirming that her government would continue to respect its independent endeavour to get to the bottom of the 2010 violence.

The premier did set up another committee to "follow up" on the TRCT's work. That panel was headed by her own deputy premier, Yongyuth Vichaidit, whose role was never clearly defined in the first place. Now it will have to decide whether to "endorse" the Kanit commission's findings or not.

Before the Pheu Thai Party's spokesman went public to demand a new investigation committee on the issue, red-shirt leader Thida Tavornseth made a similar plea. She demanded that the government should not allow the TRCT report to be translated for distribution abroad - and that a new panel should revise its content before publicising it abroad.

Setting up a new commission to investigate the original commission's findings certainly won't solve the problem - especially when the conclusions of the new panel have already by prescribed by the proponents of the new investigation committee. After all, if you don't like the first report and demand a second report that you like, the other side will inevitably demand a third commission to produce another report to their liking. There could be no end to finding "answers" to fit the question.

Perhaps critics should heed the very reasonable advice of TRCT Chairman Kanit himself: "Please read the full report in detail before making any comments, favourable or otherwise."


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