First, learn how the other side thinks
National reconciliation is an admirable goal but it would be a misplaced goal if Thai society has yet to learn how to co-exist and compete with those who think differently about politics in a peaceful, constructive and democratic manner.
The political rift continuing over the past six years or so may be a long and painful road for Thais who are allergic to open conflicts, but there are no shortcuts and society simply cannot afford not to learn how to co-exist and compete peacefully, politically speaking.
Learning more about those who disagree with you and how they think is high on the list of peaceful co-existence. Unfortunately, both sides of the political divide are more comfortable with and keen about denouncing and demonising their opponents.
Those who think that getting rid of the ousted and fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra would end Thailand's marathon political feud would do well to think again. It should become abundantly clear to them that even if Thaksin is no longer active, politically speaking, the millions who support him will not simply disappear.
Most of the Bangkok-based mainstream mass media's over-obsession with Thaksin strangely did not translate into curiosity to learn more about his red-shirt supporters, especially those from the rural poor. It is quite ironic and even perverted to think that foreign media like the International Herald Tribune seem to be spending more time and effort in trying to understand the rural poor who supported Thaksin than most of the mainstream Thai media.
As long as the Thai elite, the educated middle class and mainstream media do not regard the majority of Thais who are poor with respect and treat them more equally and try to understand their plight and aspirations, the less well-to-do reds who have become politically active over the past six years will almost certainly continue to push for some form of political restructuring and greater socio-political and economic equity.
The reds get very upset when Thaksin is scrutinised, unconstitutionally ousted and convicted while some public figures of great social and political influence cannot even be criticised or made accountable.
Many red shirts have long abandoned the mainstream media as they have lost trust in their claimed impartiality and have for years now tuned in to their own television and radio stations.
A taxi driver this writer rode with on Monday tuned in to red community radio FM92.25, which relayed news from Asia Update, one of the two red TV stations. The news presented was very different from that of the mainstream media. I heard Asia Update report in some detail about news that the mainstream media would rather pretend is not newsworthy.
Somsak Jiamteerasakul, a Thammasat University historian and leading advocate for reform of the monarchy, was heard speaking at a forum about the need to do more than just amend the controversial lese majeste law and to launch wide-ranging reforms of the royal institution.
The cabby from Nong Khai who has lived in Nonthaburi for 20 years then told me, "I won't allow Thailand be dragged back into becoming like Burma".
Understanding should be a two-way street, however, and I can't help but feel that the supporters of Thaksin are not really keen on understanding the insecurity and paranoia of their opponents. The reds are also still not open to acknowledging the flaws, mistakes and abuses of power committed by Thaksin. Liberal red shirts such as Red Sunday group leader Sombat Boon-ngam-anong should ensure that ordinary reds value criticism and scrutiny as not just a tool to fight their opponents but also as an indispensable part of a democratic system that should be applied equally to everyone, including their leaders.