Bangkok – The newly-installed National Reconciliation Commission, led by respected former Thai Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun, is finally readyto get down to the business of restoring peace in the violence-plagued South. However, there are alreadymurmurings of unhappiness among Muslims in the region at the lack of their representation in the 48-member panel.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on March 29 gave his endorsement to the panel members chosen by Mr Anand. The latter pledged to operate out of the government’s shadow.
“The people are my boss, not the government...I don’t need to report to the Prime Minister,” Mr Anand said.
He said the unrest in the deep South, which had claimed more than 600 lives since January last year, was caused by three factors: Mutual misunderstanding, mutual fear and mutual violence.
He said the commission would produce strategies, measures and mechanisms for the government to implement to restore peace and harmony in the region. He also urged the media to help in making his panel succeed by refraining from reports that might trigger the “3Ms”.
Of the 48 members in the commission, 16 of them, or one-third, represent civic groups in the deep South. There are also a few Muslim clerics, including the chairmen of the three provincial Islamic committees of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.Many Bangkok-based social activists are also on the commission.
According to The Nation, residents in theSouth expressed disappointment with the panel becausemany members of the commission had little knowledge about the local situation.
“Of course, there are some Muslims, but the chairman should be aware that Muslims in the deep South are Malay Muslims – not the kind of Muslims found inBangkok,” said Mr Mansou Salaeh, adviser to the Yala-based Young Muslim Association of Thailand.
“The National Reconciliation Commission, I think, may be no more effective than dropping origami paper birds on the region, producing nothing but garbage,” he added.
Mr Anand defended his decision saying that the members reflected a broad cross-section of society.
“I can explain the reasons for my selections; there have been no favours to anyone,” he said.
* National Reconciliation Commission: Anand asserts independence (The Nation, March 29)
* PM endorses line-up of reconciliation panel (Bangkok Post, March 29)