By Surasak Tumcharoen
BANGKOK, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- The Thai government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is determined to push its reconciliation efforts and political and economic reforms with or without the participation of the members of the opposition.
A number of prominent and highly-respected Thais have already joined the Political Reform Council (PRC), the body formed by the prime minister to work on reconciling political factions and bringing back stability in the country.
Most of those who have confirmed their participation in the council are allied with the ruling Pheu Thai (For Thais) Party. Understandably, the opposition Democrat Party led by former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva has rejected the invitation to join the council. Among the well-known figures who have already confirmed to participate include former premiers Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and Banharn Silpa-acha, former Democrat Party leader Pichai Rattakul, de facto Chart Pattana Party leader Suvat Liptapallop, Palang Chon Party leader Sontaya Kunpluem, Bhum Jai Thai Party leader Anuthin Charnverakul, former House speakers Ukrit Mongkolnavin and Uthai Pimchaichon, 2006's coup leader Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, former election commissioner Gothom Areya and former constitutional judge Kramol Thongthammachart.
Abhisit has announced that his party would not join the council unless the government recalls its legislation that would grant amnesty to political prisoners and defendants involved in peaceful demonstrations and related activities organized by Yellow Shirt and Red Shirt followers. The amnesty bill, which recently passed its first hurdle in the House of Representatives, is likely to be revised in all details and might probably take months to become a law.
Deputy Prime Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana and Prime Minister' s Office Minister Varathep Ratanakorn are quietly approaching different front-line Thai figures in efforts to bring them to the council.
A source from the Prime Minister's Office said that some world- renowned VIPs, such as former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, have been invited and already agreed to visit Thailand to share their ideas on how to achieve peace and reconciliation in the country.
Pheu Thai MP Wattana Muangsuk, known to be personally connected with Yingluck as well as her brother, former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra, is working behind the scene to convince other political heavyweights, including those viewed as enemies of " Thaksin's rule" to join the council for the sake of the country.
Wattana said that critics of the government should set aside their personal stance and contribute in efforts to reform and strengthening of the country's democracy and political system. He said that a few, if not several, of the rabid anti-Yingluck, including members of the People's Alliance for Democracy, better known as Yellow Shirt movement, appointed senators who call themselves a "Group of 40," and even some of the bigwigs of the Democrat Party, would eventually join the council.
According to Deputy Premier Pongthep, members of the Political Reform Council should begin to convene later this month or early September. He earlier said that the council will have a maximum of 100 members. As of now, less than 50 have already publicly announced their willingness to join the council.
Thammasat University's head political scientist Professor Chaivat Satha-anand expressed concerns that the council would be a one-sided body without the participation of the opposition leaders.
The academic, who turned down the invitation to join the council, said without the participation of the political opposition, national reconciliation as envisioned by the Yingluck government would be "very difficult" to achieve.
But Chiang Mai University's law lecturer Somchai Preechasilpakul remained optimistic that sooner or later, anti- government critics would ultimately join the council, however reluctantly, for the good of the country.