After two years of hard work, the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (TRC) on Monday released its final report on the political violence in 2010.
It holds all the key players in the political conflict accountable for the violence which took the lives of 92 people - protesters, other civilians, soldiers and police - with well over 1,000 others injured.
Against persistent denials of the existence of “men in black” by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) which staged the protests in Bangkok, the report confirmed the existence of the “men in black” and said that they were linked to the red-shirt guards close to Maj-Gen Khattiya Sawadipol, alias Seh Daeng. The report, however, did not dig further about where these mystery gunmen came from, where they went after the protests ended or who funded their activities.
As for Seh Daeng was shot dead by a sniper in front of Lumpini park during the protests. The report did not point the finger at the army, but merely said that he was killed by a gunshot from one of the highrise buildings bordering the Lumpini park entrance.
The TRC's report implicating Seh Daeng’s involvement with the “men in black’’ drew a fierce rebuke from the late general’s daughter, Ms Khattiya, who is also a Pheu Thai list MP. She slammed the TRC, saying it was putting the blame on a dead man who could not defend himself, and then tore up a copy of the report in front of the media.
UDD co-leader Weng Tojirakan also rejected the report as biased, and challenged the report’s confirmation of the men in black.
The UDD itself was accused by the TRC of not doing enough to control the red-shirt protesters, to stop the violence perpetrated by some protesters against security forces, and of failing to restrain hate speeches inciting violence delivered on stage at the protest site.
As for the then-government and the military, the report dismissed the claim by the military that only blank cartridges were used to control the mob. Instead, it said that live ammunition and war weaponry, including helicopters, were employed to deal with the protesters.
The report also held senior members of the Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES), a body set up to deal with the protests, of not properly monitoring the activities of troops on the ground, thus allowing excessive use of force against the protesters. One truth commissioner said that some of the senior members actually believed that troops used blank cartridges all along.
Besides reporting about events during the protests, the TRC also made 13 recommendations it hopes will be considered by the government and other parties concerned. The recommendations include: stop abusing the lese majeste law and both the government and the parliament should hold public discussions to explore the possibility of amending the law; the media should stop inciting violence or hatred; the military should be politically impartial and should be answerable to the civilian government; the judiciary should be politically impartial; and the government should not rush to amend the constitution.
On the same day that the TRC released its final report, the Criminal Court issued a ruling confirming that taxi driver Pan Kamkong was killed by bullets fired by security forces on May 15, 2010.
The court’s ruling was immediately capitalised on by Department of Special Investigation (DSI) chief Tarit Pengdit who said the ruling would pave the way for his department to proceed with its investigation into pressing charges of pre-mediated murder charges against former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy, Suthep Thaugsuban, who were in charge of the CRES.
He also said the court’s ruling set a precedent for the other cases involving people killed during the protests.
Mr Tarit’s statement immediately drew sharp rebuke from the Democrats who charged that he was a political tool being used to persecute Mr Abhsit and Mr Suthep. Other critics also accused him of jumping the gun.
The DSI chief later protested that he had no intention to persecute anybody, saying that more than 30 red-shirt protesters face criminal charges for their involvement in violent protests.
While the TRC final report does not seem to brighten the hopes for reconciliation, there was another, more ppositive, sign when the government and the opposition Democrats finally managed to be able to sit together to discuss ways to restore peace in the restive deep South.
At the invitation of the government, southern Democrats MPs led by Mr Abhisit took part in the talks at Government House on Tuesday to discuss the situation in the far South, and put several proposals to the government for consideration.
The proposals include: the dissolution of a recently established Bangkok-based command led by Deputy Prime Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa to oversee military and non-military operations in the far South, on the grounds that it is a duplication of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre; and “No” to any idea of a special administrative zone for the region, such as the Maha Nakhon Pattani administrative zone earlier floated by Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.
The first proposal was immediately shot down by the government.
The Democrats, however, supported the idea of invoking Article 21 of the Internal Security Act to revoke all the arrest warrants issued under the emergency decree against suspected militants as an incentive for more militants to defect and to turn over a new leaf.
Meanwhile, Parliament President Somsak Kiatsuranant was caught out when it was reported that he would lead a big delegation of aides and favoured media people on a taxpayer-funded “study” tour to western Europe this weekend.
The itinery covers England, France and Belgium and the schedule includes a visit to the British parliament, the BBC and the Economist newspaper -- and tickets to an English Premier League match in London.
At the centre of this controversy is that the entire junket for 39 people is funded by seven million baht of taxpayers' money and that the trip is all about sight-seeing, eating and shopping, a very little about studying.
And most of the media members invited to join the trip are known to be supporters of the government or sympathetic to the red-shirts. One of them, Virot Ali, signed up for the tour purporting to represent the Bangkok Post newspaper. The Post has denied any connection with the man.
One of the group, Chakraphan Yomchinda, a former Pheu Thai MP, is taking along his wife and a daughter. He did explain they were travelling at their own expense.
When news of the European trip was leaked to the media, Mr Somsak said he would change the trip and the delegation would visit China instead. However, latest reports are that the trip remains the same and they will fly to Europe.
Caught in the public limelight – in negative light though – is well known TV talk-show anchor Sorayuth Suthassanachinda.
Mr Sorayuth owns the Rai Som Company and was faulted by the National Anti-Corruption Commission of conspiring with a staff member at the state-run Mass Communications Organisation of Thailand, which operates Channel 9, to withhold 138 million baht in advertising revenue sharing from MCOT seven years ago.He said on his show on Friday morning the money had now been paid to the MCOT and he was suing for revenue owed to him.