Bangkok - The National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), which is headed by respected former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, has come under fire recently for its alleged pro-Muslim bias as well as its supposed ineffectiveness. While Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has said that the NRC will serve out its one-year term, an academic has suggested that major changes are needed if the commission is to succeed in its mission of drafting a masterplan to end the insurgency in southern Thailand.
Dr Amorn Wanichwiwatana, a lecturer in Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Political Science, suggested that not all of the NRC's 50 members "seem to be totally dedicated to the objectives of the commission".
The NRC's 50 members, comprising public figures and members of well-known non-governmental organisations (NGOs), were all personally selected by Mr Anand.
"Many continue to work at their regular full-time jobs and are therefore unable to make much of a useful contribution to the commission," Dr Amorn said in a commentary published in The Nation.
Some of the NRC's media-savvy members also continue to make frequent guest appearances on television, despite Mr Anand's earlier proclamation that he alone would speak for all of the members in order to avoid confusion.
Dr Amorn argued that the NRC's task is not to give interviews "but to seek viable solutions to this very serious problem at hand".
"How, exactly, are the members going to do this if they are continuously seeking to give interviews?"
He suggested that the commission either be completely revamped or include more "real" local representation.
Dr Amorn added that many of the NRC's 50 members are "not what the committee needs". Many were chosen because they were well-known personalities and not because they were well-versed in the situation in the Muslim-majority deep South.
"The Commission requires that all members be willing and able to dedicate time and effort to come up with real solutions rapidly, not merely window-dressing. They must engage local citizens who possess an in-depth knowledge of local problems, not merely throw out abstract theories from the musty lecture halls of some far-away university or quickly bone up on the restive South with books."
Dr Amorn said: "Only through cooperation with the locals will we find a lasting solution."
* NRC could do much better than it has (The Nation, Oct 29)