Tuesday, August 10, 2010

TV Roundtable on Cambodia:A win-win encounter



It was a win-win "Roundtable" on Channel 11 on Sunday when Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva invited his critics on the Phra Viharn controversy to "debate" the issue live for three hours on public television.

Both sides had done their homework and the Thai public was given both sides of the story in an open, frank and lively way.

Compared to his similar live broadcast negotiations with the red-shirt leaders a few months ago, this encounter was much more creative and productive. There were of course moments of heated exchanges between Abhisit and Veera Somkwamkid,one of the leaders of the "Thai Patriots Alliance" who had demanded that the government push out the intruding Khmers on the mountain border area -- and to abrogate the 2000 MoU.

But the rhetoric was polite and based on facts rather than emotion. Abhisit could have said to have scored well, if nothing else, for his willingness to debate his opponents in a public forum. None of his predecessors had had the political courage to have done that.

The Patriots Alliance chalked up good marks for their well-informed presentations of the facts behind the Thai-Cambodia conflict over the mountain temple.

And when the debate ended three hours later, the audience got to learn more about the complicated issue.Neither side gave grounds but the Thai public is now in a better position to take an informed stance.

When the sense of nationalism is backed up by facts and informed analyses, the danger of tense confrontation should be considerably reduced.