Fri, May 20, 2011 - Page 5 News List

ANALYSIS: One year after protests, Thais still divided


Instead, the lack of justice is driving the sides further apart, he added.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s administration has tried to heal wounds by offering compensation to victims: 400,000 baht (US$13,000) payments to those who lost loved ones, lesser amounts to those injured and lifetime monthly assistance to the disabled.

However, it has also aggressively pursued opposition leaders and critics, shutting down pro-opposition radio stations and jailing hundreds — some for alleged acts of “terrorism” or insulting the nation’s king.

“Certainly, if you ask me if there is reconciliation today, I have to say ‘not yet,’” Abhisit said in a speech this month.

“The government has asserted the rule of law to show that Thailand is governed by law, and ... the work on establishing reconciliation has already begun,” he added.

To that end, the government set up the Truth for Reconciliation Commission to piece together what happened last spring. Establishing the truth is necessary before the nation can move forward, chief investigator Somchai Homlaor said, but that task has not been easy.

The commission cannot issue subpoenas or grant immunity in exchange for testimony and Somchai said that although investigators had interviewed hundreds of people, some — particularly soldiers and some Red Shirts — were initially reluctant, suspicious of the panel’s aims or fearful of prosecution.

“There must be justice first,” Somchai said in an interview. “Otherwise reconciliation will not happen.”

One clear problem is “the culture of impunity is very strong in Thailand,” Somchai said.

The DSI investigation identified 13 cases in which security personnel may have been involved in potentially unlawful killings. The cases were transferred to the police for further investigation and possible indictment three months ago, but none have been referred to the courts.

Adams said he believes the government — which opponents allege ascended to power only because of military pressure on some lawmakers to defect from a previously Thaksin-allied government — “is afraid of taking on the army.” The government says justice must be allowed to run its course.

Kamolkate died inside Wat Pathum Wanaram, a Buddhist temple wedged between glitzy shopping malls along a street that had been occupied by demonstrators for weeks.

When the fatal volley of gunfire struck her in the thigh and back, Kamolkate was treating a mortally wounded protester. Another man who rushed to help her was also shot in the head and killed.

The DSI said green-tipped 5.56mm bullets — used in the Thai army’s M16 assault rifles — were found in the bodies of Kamolkate and at least three other people. Human Rights Watch says no arms were found in the temple.

When Payao recounts the loss, tears stream down her cheeks.

“Those who killed my daughter should be put on trial,” she said. “Why is that so hard?”

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