Catholic, Buddhist and Muslim leaders invite fellow Thais to opt for dialogue and peace
by Weena Kowitwanij
Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission organised a meeting with the archbishop of Bangkok, the rector of a Buddhist university and an Islamic scholar. All three religious leaders call for a “third meeting” between government and opposition. They also demand a committee to inquiry into the violent clashes that broke out on 10 April in Bangkok.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Three Thai religious leaders, a Catholic, a Buddhist and a Muslim, have called on the Thai government and the red-shirts to maintain a respectful attitude towards one another. No one should prevail over the other; everyone should put the national interest first and stop the violence that is hurting the country. They voiced such a request at a meeting organised by Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

NHRC president Umara Phongsapitch invited religious leaders from the country’s three main religious communities to discuss the current political crisis and possible ways to reach a peaceful solution. The meeting, which was held yesterday at the Government Service building in Nonthaburi, saw the participation of Mgr Francis Xavier Kirengsak Kovithavanij, archbishop of Bangkok, Phradhamakosajarn, a Buddhist scholar, and Imron Maluleem, a Muslim leader.

All three leaders called for a third meeting between the government and the National United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), the political pressure group that represents the opposition. They also called for a special committee of experts and representatives from all groups to examine video shot during violent clashes that broke out on 10 April that left a Japanese camera operator dead, so that “it may be clear to all who was is real cause of that harmful event.”

Mgr Francis Xavier Kirengsak Kovithavanij, who is also Vice President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand, said that the country can and must “be united” in its diversity. “We should open our hearts,” he said. “Demonstrators should respect the rights of others since they too are moved by noble motives, without violence.”

In his address during the meeting, the prelate said that both parties “should return to dialogue” because Thai people, especially Catholics, “have always been moved by hope.”

For the archbishop of Bangkok, “the violence that is harming the nation” should end. Everyone should be frank and “seek a compromise” because there is still hope for Thai society since “we are not enemies, but brothers and sisters.”

Phradhamakosajarn, rector of Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya Buddhist University, did not conceal his concerns about the current political situation. He called on his fellow Thais to “compose themselves, rather than confront each other.” In his words, Thailand’s “social crisis must be settled on the basis of the supremacy of Dharma; compassion, not mutual revenge.”

It is necessary, the Buddhist leader said, to adopt religious virtues like patience and forgiveness. “I call on the Thai people to put an end to anarchy because the sacred values of the rule of law must be used in appropriate measure.”

Imron Maluleem, acting President of the Office of the Sheikhul Islam (which advises the king on Islamic matters), said that we must stop “”fanning the flame” with controversies. On the contrary, we must “put out the fire” by finding a “satisfactory solution” to the crisis. For him, the priorities should include “justice” since “without justice there is no harmony”.

The Muslim leader added that it is time “to give birth to a new political culture instead of rousing the mob”, one that would allow people to engage “in peaceful protest in accordance with the constitution”.