Prayut: Government firm on reconciliation

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha gazes at a cut-out poster of himself put up for children to take photos at Government House. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha insisted Wednesday the government was committed to a reconciliation process, stressing that building national unity should not focus solely on the political aspect.

Gen Prayut said it was imperative to identify the root causes of the divisiveness which has dragged on for 10 years and has hindered national development. He noted there were other aspects to the discord, not just political issues.

He also said the political aspect usually led to talks about an amnesty which could trigger opposition and disrupt the process.

According to the prime minister, national development depended very much on national unity.

“The reconciliation process shouldn’t be limited to those facing criminal charges. The public must also be part of it. People won’t be able to talk to their neighbours because they are on different sides and watch different TV channels,” he said.

Gen Prayut was speaking to a group of 779 children and teens invited to Government House for their excellent academic record.

His remark followed a fresh attempt to revive an amnesty plan for those involved in political violence in past years.

The National Reform Steering Assembly’s (NRSA) political reform committee will submit a proposal later this month to the assembly designed to address political divisions and achieve national unity.

The proposal was said to include suspended punishment for political offenders who pleaded guilty to minor offences from Sept 19, 2006 to May 22, 2015.

Gen Prayut also defended the junta-sponsored 20-year national strategic plan, saying it was pivotal in strengthening the reconciliation process and development.

He said several problems persist in part due to the lack of a long-term strategic plan that would serve as a framework and policy guideline.

“People believe that ministers should be removed if they can’t solve the problems. Will that really help? If the policy is poorly written, the problems won’t go away. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, you’ll be disappointed,” he said.

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva welcomed Gen Prayut’s remark about the reconciliation process.

“The prime minister is right to say reconciliation and amnesty are not the same. An amnesty should be granted in certain cases involving the people. If we stick to this principle and focus on how to reduce conflicts and hatred, it’ll be beneficial to the public and the nation,” he said.

Mr Abhisit also called on the public to be more aware about how people can use social media as a political tool to peddle false information and stir up hatred, saying there should be a campaign to raise awareness about proper use of social media.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai’s Surapong Tovichakchaikul welcomed Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon’s plan to initiate a dialogue between various parties to foster reconciliation before the next general election.

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