Thailand’s Cabinet has approved compensation for victims of the political conflicts that have plagued the country for almost seven years. This signals the new government’s commitment to take steps toward reconciliation.
About 2 billion baht ( USD$62.8 million) of funds will be distributed to victims of political unrest, as a pay-out for all deaths and injuries sustained in a string of violent protests since 2005, involving the arch nationalist Yellow Shirts, the mainly rural working-class Red Shirts and several smaller factions. The protests led to a 2006 military coup that further polarized supporters and opponents of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Government spokesperson Thitima Chaisaeng explained the allocation of funds. The Social and Development Ministry would handle the distribution of funds. 4.5 million baht has been allocated for the families of the deceased and those who became disabled as a result of the conflicts. Between 675,000 baht and 1.123 million baht has been earmarked for those who suffered serious injuries while those with minor injuries will get 225,000 baht.
It is unclear at the moment whether those detained on charges of terrorism, arson and violating emergency decrees would be entitled to the pay-out. There were also no details on the exact number of victims who would benefit, although most of the pay-outs are likely to go to those affected by the crackdown on the Red Shirt rallies in April and May 2010.
Besides compensation, the Thai government will be taking concrete steps to assist in the rehabilitation of victims. Two subcommittees would be set up for civil and criminal rehabilitation, with the former being chaired by Prasit Kowilaikul, a former PM's Office minister in the post-coup government of General Surayud Chulanont, and the latter by former attorney-general Chaikasem Nirisiri.
Background and Analysis
The deeply divided nation experienced numerous protests that began in 2005. In 2010, a two month street protest brought Bangkok to a standstill and left more than 90 people dead and around 1,900 injured, mostly civilians, in clashes with soldiers.
The 2010 demonstrations marked a crescendo in tensions for the politically fractured kingdom, after years of unrest that began months before a 2006 military coup that deposed Thaksin, long despised by the Bangkok elites.
Other protests include the occupation of two Bangkok airports in 2008 by the royalist Yellow Shirts, whose rallies helped unseat Thaksin and his allies from power.
Analysts have viewed this latest move by the government of Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of divisive former premier Thaksin, as a well-thought out political move that has the effect of showing Thais that the government has "taken responsibility by giving to all sides".
Report: Thailand Compensation Approved for Victims of Political Protests [The New York Times, 11 Jan 2012]