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Panel 'not seeking prosecutions'

Kanit panel urges groups not to use 'historic' report for political benefit

The Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (TRCT) formally released its final report yesterday, in which it blamed both sides for the 2010 crackdown that claimed more than 90 lives and left more than 2,000 injured. Commissioner Somchai Homla-or said the TRCT did not intend to prosecute anyone.
"TRCT has no intention to bring anyone to justice or to blame anybody. Let us look ahead," he said as he acknowledged that both sides had their own "version of truth" about what happened.

In the report, TRCT blames the so-called "men in black", some of whom are believed to be linked to red-shirt guards, and late Maj-General Khattiya "Seh Daeng" Sawasdipol for killing soldiers on April 10, 2010 and provoking the Army to shoot protesters. On the other hand, it also blames the Army for using live bullets, marksmen and snipers.

"Many people still think [the Army] used only blanks, but security officers fired several live rounds at the protesters," Somchai said at yesterday's press conference.

Aware that both sides will possibly find something in the report to disagree on, the TRCT warned that people should not use the findings to create more rifts.

However, some prominent red shirts, such as academic Suda Rangkupan, said the report contained more falsehoods than truths. "Who are the killers? No conclusion has been reached about the men in green," she said, referring to the Army. "There is more false information than fact. It will be the beginning of another round of conflicts."

Asked if the Commission truly believed that nobody should be prosecuted as suggested by Somchai, there was no response from either Somchai or commission chairman Kanit na Nakorn.

After much pressure, Kanit just said, "there's no end to debate [about what happened] … I insist we did everything for the public", before abruptly ending the forum.

Michael Vatikiotis, director of the Singapore-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, suggested that perhaps TRCT got "cold feet" and decided against pushing for prosecution of those responsible, though he praised the report as a "new benchmark".

"It is new in this country because they made it public," he said.

Sunai Phasuk, senior researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said this was the first time ever that there had been an "impartial inquiry" into the political violence and both sides have been blamed for it. "This should end the trading of blame between both sides and instead they push for those responsible to come forward and face prosecution," he said.

Sunai said the initial reaction toward the report was negative because sides only focused on aspects that serve them politically. He urged the TRCT to not stop its work, but continue communicating with the public. "They did not build trust, so everyone questions TRCT's integrity and motive."

The commission, whose chairman was personally chosen by then-prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in the aftermath of the April-May 2010 violence, also offered 13 suggestions on achieving long-term national reconciliation, which includes reforming the Army and the lese majeste law as well as addressing the socio-economic inequality problem.

The TRCT has called on all parties to refrain from any action that could create conflict and destroy the atmosphere for reconciliation.

"Politicians should not use the political arena or political issues to incite hatred and divisions among the people," the report said. It also added that in the mid-term, the state should provide a venue or channel for people communicate via dialogue and that all parties should be willing to listen to differing opinions.

The report came with a personal note from Kanit, in which he calls for convicted and fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra to wash his hands of politics. "I believe a true statesman should do that," he said, while wrapping up the conference.