Thursday, January 12, 2012

B2bn fails to soothe victims' kin Democrats say package won't end political rifts

The government's 2 billion baht compensation package for victims of political violence has failed to satisfy many relatives and left them repeating their demands for truth and justice.
Reds lament Disabled red shirts and dead red shirt demonstrators’ kin show up at parliament yesterday to complain about the fate of those who perished during clashes between authorities and protesters during the Abhisit government. DemocratMP Tankhun Jitt- Itsara, sitting right, receives a complaint on Mr Abhisit’s behalf. THITIWANNAMONTHA
The opposition Democrats meanwhile blasted the scheme saying it was not comprehensive enough and inadequate to bring about reconciliation.
Some academics, however, lauded the move as a "significant step" toward healing the country's protracted political divide.
The Yingluck Shinawatra government on Tuesday approved the compensation package for victims of political violence which took place between 2005 and the 2010 Bangkok violence.
Under the package, which is based on suggestions by the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (TRC), the family of each slain victim will be entitled to 4.5 million baht, while the injured will receive different amounts of compensation depending on the severity of their injuries.
Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva asked why the multi-billion-baht compensation scheme did not cover damaged parties in the far South and those involved in previous political strife.
Mr Abhisit said he wondered if the compensation should also cover people affected by political violence in the Black May 1992 incident and the 1976 and 1973 student uprisings.
He also asked if the compensation scheme would cover demonstrators who were involved in arson, attacks on government officials and the illegal use of war weapons in 2010.
People affected by the 2010 military crackdown on red shirt protesters, which resulted in more than 90 deaths and over 2,000 injured, welcomed the compensation scheme, but insisted that the government must bring those involved in the deaths of their loved ones to justice.
A financial remedy is a must but it is not enough if the government wants to soothe the hurt of the victims of political unrest, they said.
Boontarika Taengpetch, 29, daughter of Sa-Ming Taengpetch, who was killed in the April 10, 2010 clashes between red shirts and security forces, said she was glad the promise of compensation for the red shirt victims was upheld although the leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship initially promised to pay 10 million baht for each casualty.
"But will they only pay and forget to bringing the person who killed my dad to justice?" said Ms Boontarika.
She said after the death of her father, the family was paid 400,000 baht from the Abhisit government, 100,000 baht from the Pheu Thai Party, and about 20,000 baht from a Pheu Thai phu yai.
Sommat Chuaypimai, the mother of red shirt supporter Adirak who disappeared in May 2010, welcomed the government's compensation offer but said what she really wanted was help to search for her 24-year-old son.
Chaiwat Poompuang, a photographer from The Nation newspaper who was wounded while working during the May 2010 crackdown on red shirt demonstrators in Bangkok, said he would like to fully recover from his injuries rather than receive the compensation money.
He has undergone seven bone transplants on his right thigh and his condition is improving. However, he still needs to use a cane and cannot return to doing the job he loves.
Nicha Thuwatham, the widow of Gen Romklao Thuwatham, who was killed in a clash with red shirt protesters at Khok Wua intersection on April 10, 2010, said setting aside reconciliation and compensation, the government should also guarantee that all parties involved will be prosecuted fairly.
A leader of the relatives of the May 1992 massacre of democracy demonstrators, said the government must press ahead with probes into deadly incidents of political unrest instead of just paying out cash.
Adul Khiawboriboon, chairman of the May 1992 relatives committee, said the compensation was good, but frustration and rage over political violence could be ended if the authorities simply apologised.
"It must be a remedy to sentiment, not just financial reparation," said Mr Adul, who lost one of his three children during Black May.
Surichai Wun'Gaeo, director of Chulalongkorn University's Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, said he was pleased the government has taken the TRC's recommendation seriously.
"It's a step forward that not only the government but the whole of society must push toward to achieve the healing process," said Mr Surichai.