11 July 2024

Eleven members have been appointed to the newly-formed reconciliation committee tasked with finding a solution to the ongoing political conflict.

However, representatives from the opposition and anti-government protesters are so far absent from the panel, after they refused to join this fresh effort towards national harmony.

Parliament President Chuan Leekpai, who is also the House of Representatives speaker, announced the appointments on Monday (Jan 11).

The appointees are General Chaichan Changmongkol, Tirdpong Jayanandana, Soraat Klinpratoom, Nirot Suntornleka, Wanlop Tangkananurak, Chaweerat Kasetsunthorn, Prof Surichai Wungaeo, Prof Wanchai Watthanasap, Somsak Rungroong, Assoc Prof Nirut Thungnark and Prof Virot Limkaisang.

Deputy Defence Minister Chaichan and Democrat Party senior MP Tirdpong represent the government, while Bhumjaithai MP Soraat and Palang Pracharath MP Nirot come from ruling coalition parties. The Senate is represented by Wanlop and Chaweerat.

The five other members are experts from the academic world. Chulalongkorn University political science lecturer Surichai, Khon Kaen University’s former president Wanchai and Southeast Bangkok College president Somsak were nominated by the Conference of University Presidents of Thailand.

Nirut and Virot are rectors of Rajabhat Maha Sarakham University and Rajamangala University of Technology Isan, respectively, and were nominated by fellow rectors from other campuses of their institutions.

The reconciliation committee is meant to have 21 members. Of the 10 remaining places, two each are reserved for the opposition, anti-government protesters, and pro-government groups, while four will go to reconciliation specialists.

Chaichan, who served as deputy defence minister in General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s post-coup government and is seen as Prayut’s trusted man, is expected to chair the reconciliation committee.

The soft-spoken Chaichan was previously appointed to a committee tasked with “preparing for reconciliation”, which was chaired by then-junta leader General Prayut.

Chaichan was then chosen to chair a subcommittee responsible for gathering opinions on how reconciliation could be attained. On Valentine’s Day 2017, he hosted a meeting of representatives from political parties and groups to discuss the matter.

Nowadays, he is often assigned by PM Prayut, who also doubles as defence minister, to answer opposition queries or challenges during Parliamentary meetings or censure debates.

Chaichan, 63, graduated from the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School and later the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy.

He became deputy permanent secretary for defence in October 2015 and permanent secretary a year later.

The general served as a member of the post-coup National Legislative Assembly (NLA) from February to November 2017 and was appointed deputy defence minister just days after resigning from the NLA.

Tirdpong, 76, is a veteran politician and 10-time Democrat MP from the northern Tak province. He received bachelor’s degrees in Electrical Engineering and Economics, as well as a master’s in Public Administration.

Democrat Party leader Jurin Laksanawisit vouched for Tirdpong, saying that he was well qualified to serve on the reconciliation panel thanks to his long years of experience and compromising nature.

“He can represent the Cabinet to find a way out for the country,” Jurin said.

Surichai, 71, is a sociology professor and director of Chulalongkorn University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Chulalongkorn and a master’s degree in the same field from University of Tokyo. He is regarded as an authority in the field of peace and conflict.

Wanchai, the former dean of Khon Kaen University’s Faculty of Medicine, has a special interest in conflict and peace studies. He served as director of the Peace and Governance Office at King Prajadhipok’s Institute from 2001 to 2007.

Wanlop, 65, is founder of the Foundation for the Better Lives of Children and was first appointed as a senator in 1996, before being elected to the Upper House in 2000 as Bangkok representative. He was appointed as an NLA member after the 2006 coup and again following the 2014 putsch.

By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk