In seeking reconciliation, we move further away from it
What makes it most difficult for two people to mend fences?If both think they are absolutely right and each believes without a shred of doubt that the other is wrong, that is. Reconciliation can never materialise under such circumstances, for it is never a process of proving you are right. It's all about accepting guilt on your part and never looking beyond that.
We have a Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand, reconciliation bills and an Ad Hoc House Committee on Reconciliation. Constitutional reform is also around the corner, providing that the present standoff does not snowball into something worse. None of the methods or measures purportedly intended to restore political peace is making anyone accept their own sin. Everyone has been exploiting the term "reconciliation" to prove that he was right all along and the others have been wrong all the time.
Whenever "Good" is up against "Evil", the only outcome is devastation. The reason why is simple: everybody will do whatever it takes not to be deemed evil. The Thai situation has come down to that black-and-white mentality, which prevails on both sides. The whiter they think they are, the blacker the other side becomes, and the greyer both camps actually turn. Reconciliation lies in both sides coming to accept the grey elements on their part, which, as things stand, is not happening.
On one hand, Thailand seems painfully close to a solution. As far as democracy goes, the sister of a political fugitive is running a strong government. That is not something we see every day in this world. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has a full mandate to implement all kinds of conventional policies, no matter how controversial, and use taxpayers' money the way her party wants to. The minimum wage has been drastically raised despite an outcry from the business sector. Computer tablets have been given to school kids for free despite scepticism about the motive. The government has removed a police chief, transferred a respected head of the national airline, flexed its muscles over the Bank of Thailand and allowed the United States to use a Thai air base, albeit for "humanitarian" reasons. Whatever Prime Minister Yingluck wants to do within her democratic powers, she has been able to do.
As far as the rule of law is concerned, the big brother of the prime minister is being kept outside Thailand. He is unable to return unless he serves his punishment as prescribed in a court verdict. There is nothing "democracy" can do about it, unless, of course, Yingluck stretches her so-called mandate beyond its limits. Which she is trying to do. The reconciliation bills may absolve Thaksin Shinawatra if they pass Parliament. The charter amendment, again being engineered through the Pheu Thai Party's supremacy in Parliament, could also make his family's illegal purchase of the Ratchadapisek land look like it never happened, and the seizure of his assets illegal.
Will Yingluck be able to complete her four-year term if her government drops the reconciliation bills and charter amendment from its agenda? Of course, she can. Will that be good for democracy? Of course, it will be. Do the reconciliation bills and charter amendment breach the rule of law? This question brings us to the heart of Thailand's crisis, in which democratic "mandate" means different things to different people. Is the crisis good or bad for democracy? We all know the answer.
Thais are already living in a "grey world", where Yingluck is prime minister and implementing any state policies she deems fit, and where the only thing she cannot do, as yet, is whitewash her brother. Problem is, even now that we are so close to drawing a line under matters, political rivals cannot accept their own limitations. If one side is guilty of denouncing Yingluck's democratic rights and powers, her ruling camp is guilty of over-extending them. The showdown has pitted two key pillars of Thailand against each other although they are supposed to function together in an effective and peaceful manner for the country's best interests.
But what if this status quo is as good as it gets? Real "reconciliation", perhaps, can only be achieved when both sides accept with an open mind the prevailing reality and do not try to change a thing. It sounds simple enough but is probably the hardest thing to do. To the political rivals, the reality means something is wrong. Which is correct. How they try to change it, thinking they are absolutely right, is the root cause of Thailand's never-ending predicament.