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National Dialogue for Reconciliation PDF Print E-mail

National Dialogue for Reconciliation

 

Gothom Arya                                                                                     

For more than five years, Thailand has been in a political crisis which would likely stay with us for many more years. However, during the campaign for the general election on July 3rd, 2011, many political parties proposed policies for reconciliation. This is a good opportunity for various sectors in the society to also propose ideas on how to translate those policies into concrete positive actions.   I would like to propose here that reconciliation would occur if there could be political will, systematic and earnest implementation of policies, as well as, an extensive participation from all sectors involved. Most importantly, all sectors should have space or platforms to engage in dialogue at different levels.

The nature of a dialogue is to attentively listen to others and amicably engage in conversation by taking others’ points of view into consideration, and also to respect persons who have different opinions than ours. Although a dialogue cannot solve all the problems, but at least it can build trust, tolerance, and encourage people to express their points of view in a straight forward manner instead of criticising and blaming one another. But how can such understanding and cooperation be reached?     

 

How can we begin?

 We can begin the process of reconciliation by using the existing mechanisms such as the Independent Truth and Reconciliation Committee (ITRC), the Reform Committee (RC), the Committee on Reform Assembly (CRA), and the Legal Reform Commission (LRC). However, there should be greater efforts to include other sectors in a more participatory way. The process should be the result of joint decision-making. Good coordination is necessary and there should be a secretariat office with sufficient and qualified full-time staff to help carry out the process.   

 

After the general election, the reconciliation process can start with a consultation to create a political will for reconciliation. I would like to propose that a consultative meeting be convened that involves, say, the prime minister, the leader of the opposition, the speaker of the House of Representatives, the speaker of the Senate, the chair of the ITRC, the former chair of the RC, and the chair of the CRA. The meeting may consider the basic principles governing such a national dialogue and I would like to suggest them to be as follows:  
  •  
  • ·        To be an authoritative process and to have appropriate capacity to carry out the process;
  • ·        To be as inclusive and participatory as possible;
  • ·        To use dialogue approach when appropriate i.e. to genuinely listen to each other while suspending judgment;
  • ·        To be independent in the sense that the process shall not be interfered with or controlled by one side or another;
  • ·        To be neutral in the sense that the overall process shall not take side;
  • ·        To focus on recommendations for political and social changes which are process-oriented to begin with and possibly reached through consensus.
  • ·        To provide for extensive participation at the levels of communities, provinces, regions, and nation.

  The consultative meeting may also agree on a certain framework for a national dialogue process which, for the sake of suggestion, would include the following elements: 

 

  • ·        To be a democratic process
  • ·        To be within the framework of constitutional monarchy
  • ·        To respect the rule of law
  • ·        To be a kind of movement of People for Peace and Progress (PPP)
  • ·        To search for new social contract
  •  
The consultative meeting may also agree, inter alia, on the followings:  1)      To establish the National Reconciliation Council, comprising the participants of the consultative meeting themselves and the representatives from various sectors such as political parties, bureaucracy both from the military and civil servants, business sector, academia, mass media, and civil society. The National Reconciliation Council may be given the following tasks:

 

  • ·        To steer the dialogue for national reconciliation
  • ·        To set the framework and structure of such process
  • ·        To establish various committees
  • ·        To provide budget and other resources including manpower for good functioning of the committees and the secretariat office
  • ·        To consider substantive recommendations as proposed by committees
  • ·        To assess the work of the dialogue for reconciliation process.

  2)      To set an initial timeframe, say three years, for the national dialogue for reconciliation with the possibility of extension as decided by the National Dialogue Council.

3)      To appoint a secretary general and one or two deputy secretary general of the National Dialogue Council to serve the Council, to coordinate with various committees, and to oversee the work of the Office of the Committees on National Reconciliation.

4)      To establish the Office of the Committees on National Reconciliation which uses a networking approach, rather than a centralised one. The Office may have the following organisational structure: 

 

  • ·        Sections that work directly with various committees;
  • ·        Central administration;
  • ·        Specific task forces
  •  
 Three-levels Operation

In the present situation marred with suspicion, different ideologies, and deep polarization; reconciliation seems to be a very difficult task. Its effectiveness is very much depending on the eagerness and synergy, at least, between the three following levels:

1)   The National Reconciliation Council which is situated at the following level:
  • ·        To forge political will and to build trust.
  • ·        To make political decisions on recommended process of change amidst different opinions and severe distrust, and to be willing to take some risks after a thorough deliberation.
  • ·        To be committed to effect socio-political changes and reform for long-term public benefits.

The National Reconciliation Council may hold meetings 3 – 4 times a year unless an urgent decision making is needed.

2)  The second level concerns various committees which are here referred to, by a generic name of, the Committees on National Reconciliation. They should comprise the existing committees with renewed mandate such as:  
  • ·        The ITRC whose emphasis would be on political reconciliation
  • ·        The RC whose emphasis would be on economic and governance reform.
  • ·        The CRA whose emphasis would be on social reform.
  • ·        The LRC may be included if it agrees to work on the constitutional amendment process. The LRC may also work on the reform of the judicial process, unless a separate committee be give the task.
Nevertheless, to be more inclusive, additional members may be assigned to join the existing Committees. In the beginning, we may limit ourselves to the existing Committees until more trust has been built and dialogue for the national reconciliation have reached a certain level of effectiveness. Then other committees may be established to work on other difficult issues that need more deliberation such as:

 

  • ·     Security Sector Reform (SSR)
  • ·     Reform for sustainable monarchy
  • ·     Harmony between national, regional and ethnic identities etc.

      These committees shall hold regular meetings of, say, once a week or every two weeks.

3)   The Office of the Committees on National Reconciliation functions at the third level as an office for all of the committees using networking approach rather than centralised one. Apart from supporting the general work of the Committees, other duties of the Office may include:

 

  • ·        To conduct researches
  • ·        To conduct opinion surveys
  • ·        To organize dialogue circles within the framework of the Committees’ tasks. This process may include open space dialogue whereby the participants shall identify the issues to be discussed within prior-agreed themes by themselves, and after the discussion the participants then choose some issues for more in-depth discussion using for instance world café or fish-bowl dialogue techniques. Dialogue circles may be conducted at the communal, provincial, regional and national levels in order to expand the participation in joint discussion and knowledge sharing, as much as possible.
  • ·        To analysis, synthesize various problems and solutions based on different discussions and findings and write reports to be submitted to relevant Committees.
  • ·        To communicate with the society at large via the media on issues which are approved by the committees and to disseminate information and reports.
 The Office of the Committee on National Reconciliation must have enough full-time qualified staff in order to carry out its work efficiently and effectively.

 

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