The admirable Red-Yellow Dialogue in Payao

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It’s a little story in the local newspaper, Payao Rath, of the northern Payao province but it offers a huge lesson for the whole country.

Representatives  from the local red and yellow shirts met at the invitation of a local civil society group on Oct  6. Both sides insisted they had good intentions for society but might have offended the “other colour” — but now they are ready to apologize to the other side.

The initial meeting agreed to continue the “dialogue” to avoid any future clashes between the two sides.

Isn’t that a praiseworthy model that should be adopted in every province…and eventually, at the national level?

Big breakthroughs come from small beginnings. 

Thai Talk

 

Red-yellow talks may be good blend for peace

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Tentative dialogue sessions and maybe even an apology or two may finally unify the two rivals and allow those in the middle to sigh with relief.

People keep saying that Thailand will never be able to end its political divide as long as Shinawatra Thaksin and his key opponents are unable to come to a settlement. We have been led to believe that unless Thaksin gets at least some of his frozen assets back or if his enemies continue helping him evade jail, a civil war will remain a good possibility. He, his die-hard aides and a few of their top rivals have the nation’s destiny in their hands because they are the only ones who can decide how soon we have peace or whether we should have peace at all.

This theory is further evidenced by the fact that all efforts by so-called neutral forces to overshadow the red-yellow rivalry and restore national harmony have been largely futile. Pro-red politicians can’t still visit the South, while their yellow counterparts can’t go to the North without heavy security. Politically related physical assaults are still rampant, and new elections and charter amendments are likely to further deepen the divide.

Two recent developments, however, may offer a silver lining, or so we hope. These developments are not big enough to break the front-page monopoly of divisive routines like the return of Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, the charter charade or the police chief debacle, but, like they say, big breakthroughs can come from small beginnings.

In the northern province of Phayao, representatives of the local red and yellow shirts met at the invitation of a civil society group on October 6. Both sides insisted they had good intentions for the country, even though they might have offended the “other colour”. The talks ended with the rivals agreeing to apologise to the other side and to continue with the “dialogue” to avoid any future clashes.

In Chiang Mai, where red extremism can rival the yellow aggression in Bangkok, the provincial Chamber of Commerce has succeeded in mediating a mini red-yellow dialogue session that was joined by moderate activists from both sides. Progress report from the meeting should be announced on Monday. Though hardliners from both sides shunned the talks – especially since one incident in which an anti-Thaksin activist was fatally assaulted remain fresh in many people’s memories – the dialogue represented a social determination serious enough to give hope to peace lovers.

It is probably too soon to conclude that we are definitely seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Yet the “bottom-up” peace initiatives are highly welcome. For so long now Thai “democracy” has been monopolised by rival camps, while the voices of those stuck in the middle have rarely been heard.

The mediators in Phayao and Chiang Mai represent what could be a silent majority – people who are scared and maybe fed up, but love Thailand nonetheless.

We applaud those who made the latest efforts for peace, and we thank the red and yellow representatives who agreed to join the Phayao and Chiang Mai dialogues. They may not be powerful enough to arrest the divisive trend, which may yet deteriorate into something worse, but they are a part of something meaningful, patriotic and thus honourable.

The Nation
Published on October 17, 2009

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