Thai reconciliation event gets cool response

Thai reconciliation event gets cool response
A military band performs with a group of local residents at an event organised by the Army in Pathum Thani yesterday in an effort to encourage conflicting political groups to reach reconciliation.

There has been a mixed response to the junta's first reconciliation event, held at an area in Pathum Thani known for having a radio station that supports the ousted government.

The radio station was set up by Koh Tee, a hard-line red shirt, and is no longer operating after its broadcasting equipment was seized last week in a raid by police and soldiers.

National reconciliation is the first step of the three-step roadmap that will culminate with elections.

The roadmap was laid out on Friday by Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who heads the National Council of Peace and Order (NCPO).

The Army hosted the Pathum Thani meeting at Piyanon village so that people from all sides could attend and try to reach an understanding.

"When everyone has a common understanding, reconciliation can begin," said Lieutenant Pitchaya Boonserm, who was one of the soldiers present at the event.

Running from 9.30am till noon, the event was open to everyone, and Army officials provided a free barber service, health checks, desserts, drinks and even staged a concert. There was also an exhibition listing the dates and achievements of His Majesty the King.

The atmosphere was similar to a lively carnival which, according to the Army, about 1,500 people attended. Some observed things from a distance.

Getsuda Gosalavanid, 43, a former People's Democratic Reform Council (PDRC) supporter, said she was happy the Army hosted the event because it gave her a place to express her political views. Prior to this, she feared showing support for the Army and the coup.

A resident of the area, she said none of the red-shirt supporters she knew joined the event. "They were watching from the sidelines - they aren't causing trouble, they just sit at home," she said.

Many attendees wore Army-striped or black shirts with Thai flags like PDRC members wore. A few brought water or handkerchiefs to give to soldiers.

One man said that he was not satisfied with the Army. He said he wanted elections and democratic rule, and that the reconciliation event would not change his mind. Another was unhappy as he usually set up his stall at the site.

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