Bangkok – The credibility of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), once touted as the great Thai hope to end the violence in the deep South, has come under attack. A group of Buddhists, reflecting the growing religious divide in the country, has urged the government to scrap the NRC because it is allegedly too sympathetic towards militants who kill monks.
The call to abolish the NRC, which is led by former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, was first made on Oct 25 by Phra Maha Tawin Khamkaro, a Pattani Buddhist leader who claims to have the consent of Pattani's Buddhist Council.
A day later, more than 50 protestors who claimed to represent Buddhists and religious organisations gathered in front of the Prime Minister's Office building inBangkok to demand the NRC's dissolution.
Protest leader Professor Sathian Wipromha said the duties of the NRC overlap with those of state agencies charged with ending the violence in the deep South. He added that the 50-member commission doesn't represent the majority of the Thai people because the members were picked by Mr Anand.
In a statement handed to a government official, the group said the NRC has deepened the divide between Buddhists and Muslims in the region.
Despite the growing unease with the NRC, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said the commission will serve out its one-year term.
Mr Thaksin set up the NRC in March to craft a masterplan plan for the government to deal with the violence in the deep South. However, in recent months, the NRC and the Thaksin government have consistently expressed opposing views on the handling of the situation in the mainly-Muslim region.
The Premier warned monks to be careful when making statements since they may help militants who are seeking to divide Thai society. "They are keen to make conflicts so we have to calm down and listen to all parties to know the root cause of the problems," he said.
Mr Anand, noting that the NRC was Mr Thaksin's brainchild, said it did not matter to him whether the commission stayed or was dissolved. "We have a clear mission to map out a long-term strategy for 1.8 million people in the three southernmost provinces, both Buddhists and Muslims, to live in the same society in peace."
* Protestors demand dissolution of NRC (The Nation, Oct 27)
* Thaksin resists monks' call to scrap peace panel (The Nation, Oct 26)
* NRC will serve out term (Bangkok Post, Oct 26)