In order to facilitate the government’s policy of reconciliation to heal the divisions in Thai society after the recent conflict, a new Centre for the Reconciliation of All Parties has been established under the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban. The CRAP objectives include the restoration of a normal situation throughout the Kingdom and the achievement of unity among the Thai people.
The new Centre was introduced to the media at a press conference by Dr. Panitan Wattanayakorn, Deputy Secretary-General to the Prime Minister and Acting Government Spokesman, and Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, Spokesman of the Royal Thai Army, both of whom have been appointed as CRAP mouthpieces.
In response to a question about the composition of CRAP, Col Sansern said that it had been decided to transfer en masse the personnel of the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation, or CRES, to the new Centre, since the objectives were quite similar, the personnel were now experienced, internal coordination was good, and the 11th Infantry Headquarters had an exceptionally good canteen.
When asked about the nature of CRAP operations, Dr. Panitan stressed that reconciliation was the government’s major policy objective. For reconciliation to succeed, he noted, the obstacles to reconciliation first had to be removed. It was for this reason that the authorities had to jail red sympathizers and bring charges of terrorism against former Prime Minister and fugitive from justice Thaksin Shinawatra.
A foreign journalist asked if it was a CRAP strategy to jail people without charge or trial, noting that in most countries this would be regarded as a violation of human rights. A visibly annoyed Col Sansern responded that human rights in Thailand would undergo a CRAP revision to remove such misunderstandings. Detention without charge or trial was still necessary in order to move smoothly towards reconciliation. Therefore the Emergency Decree would remain in force indefinitely. The population should remain alert for periodic CRAP announcements telling them how they were to be reconciled and should strictly follow all CRAP instructions.
In the meantime, CRAP would order the revocation of the visa and press credentials of the journalist who asked the question. ‘We cannot allow divisive and tendentious questions of this kind to disturb the nation’s steady progress to reconciliation’, said Col Sansern.
While the government found it necessary to retain CRAP powers of arbitrary imprisonment, censorship and the curtailment of civil liberties, Dr Panitan expressed the hope that the natural desire of the Thai people for unity would make coercive measures unnecessary. To this end, the government would introduce a CRAP reform of the education system to ensure that schoolchildren, and by extension their parents, would receive only correct CRAP information that would foster reconciliation.
This was, in fact, not really a new policy since many schools had already instituted measures to ban or obstruct the children of red shirt parents from attending school so that educational institutions could achieve unity and reconciliation. ‘Parents should realize that blocking reconciliation by holding dissenting views would have a severe impact on their children’s future,’ said Dr Panitan.
Research by the Office of the Basic Education Commission revealed that children who were taught at home about human rights, equality before the law and other divisive propaganda suffered serious developmental problems when they were taught correct CRAP information at school. When asked what form these developmental problems took, Dr Panitan said that normally children at the very least suffered public ridicule but in particularly recalcitrant cases it was sometimes necessary to use physical methods.
When a journalist commented that the government’s goal appeared to be to achieve reconciliation by eliminating all forms of dissent through CRAP, Dr Panitan agreed that this was the government’s new philosophy.
‘Our CRAP thinking will be applied not only to the political sphere, but also to economics. The NESDB has determined that the most effective way of eliminating poverty is by eliminating poor people, and the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources has found that environmental problems can be made to disappear simply by eliminating the natural environment,’ said Dr Panitan.
When asked if this CRAP philosophy may create a problem for Thailand’s relations with the rest of the world, Col Sansern agreed. However, in order to solve this problem effectively, he said that Thailand was now working on a strategy for CRAP to destroy the rest of the world.
About author: Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).