Redshirts Activists Rebuke 'Amnesty For All'

Redshirts protesters carry a man who was shot during clashes with security forces in Bangkok on May 15, 2010. (AFP)

(22 October) Prominent leaders of the Redshirts and their allied activists have expressed their opposition to the government-sponsored bill that would grant amnesty for all parties involved in the 2010 political violence.

The bill was originally drafted and proposed to the Parliament by Pheu Thai MP Worachai Hema. Its initial contents promised amnesty to the Redshirts protesters currently imprisoned or detained for their alleged crimes during the violent months of April-May 2010, in which the Redshirts clashed with the security forces who ultimately dispersed them.

The amnesty would also cover protesters of all shades that had been rocking the nation since 2006.

According to Mr. Worachai′s proposal, leaders of the protests – Red and Yellow – and the former government which authorised the 2010 crackdown would not be included, although the military would be granted amnesty, much to the ire of civil rights activists who accused the military of killing and injuring scores of people throughout the operation.

The anti-government faction, namely the Democrat Party, opposed the amnesty bill, arguing that the bill would ?whitewash? the Redshirts protesters and their de facto leader, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was convicted in absentia for corruption charges, although Pheu Thai Party had insisted Mr. Thaksin would not benefit from the amnesty.

However, the House Committee has revised the adopted proposal to extend the amnesty to all parties involved, including Mr. Thaksin, the former government responsible for 2010 crackdown, and all ?political prisoners?; nevertheless, lese majeste convicts are curiously exempted from the amnesty deal.

The revelation that the bill has been altered from what the Parliament has adopted prompted protests and condemnations from almost every political spectrum in Thailand.

Former PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, who has been charged with murders for his role in 2010 military operation, had previously rejected the offer of amnesty for him, stating that he is willing to fight the allegation in the court.

The Democrat Party and anti-government critics view the altered proposal as the proof that the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is only committed to helping Mr. Thaksin escape his convictions and return to power in Thailand.

Many prominent figures in the Redshirts movements also opposed the bill – nicknamed ?Suud Soi?, literally, To the end of soi (alley).

Ms. Thida Tojirakarn, chairwoman of National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), said ?Suud Soi? amnesty would undo all the legal attempts of the Redshirts to hold the former government accountable for 2010 bloodshed.

She said she does not oppose an amnesty bill that would benefit the ordinary protesters. "But amnesty for all is too much … Pheu Thai Party and Mr. Thaksin must understand and sympathise with UDD, because we are a popular organisation for political struggle, not a political party. We cannot betray the people".

Ms. Thida added that the ?Suud Soi? amnesty draft would only become ammunition for the anti-government factions.

Meanwhile, Mr. Nattawut Saikuea, a Pheu Thai MP and leader of the UDD, said he opposed the altered version of the amnesty bill because it would exempt former PM Abhisit from legal prosecution.

"Those who [kill] the people must stand trials according to the laws," said Mr. Nattawut, "It is our principle we must put in historical records, that the powerful who resort to violence against people′s lives will no longer enjoy impunity".

He refused to say on records whether he would go as far as voting against the ?Suud Soi? bill if it ever makes it to another Parliamentary session, saying that he would prove his stance by other means, and insisted that in spite of this contentious issue, Pheu Thai Party and the Redshirts remain united.

"I don?t want the Democrat Party to expect that the Redshirts would suddenly support the party in its attempt to overthrow this government," said Mr. Nattawut.

Mr. Jatupon Prompan, Deputy Chairman of UDD and a former Pheu Thai MP echoes Mr. Nattawut′s statement, saying that he will not accept an amnesty for himself and Mr. Thaksin. However, Mr. Jatupon said Mr. Thaksin deserves an amnesty because he had been a political "victim".

One of the staunchest opponents of the ?Suud Soi? bill came from Ms. Payao Akhard, the mother of a volunteer nurse killed by the military gunfire in Wat Pathum Wanararm Temple on the final day of the 2010 military crackdown.

Since her daughter′s death, Ms. Payao has been actively campaigning for legal prosecution against the military and former government.

Speaking at a press conference earlier this week, Ms. Payao stressed her stance, noting that Thailand recently commemorated the 40th anniversary of October 14th Student Uprising but has done very little in the past decades to hold the authorities accountable for their violence against protesters throughout Thai political history.

She also made a plea for Mr. Thaksin to "think this through", as the endorsement of this bill would prove that the government has lied to the people and ignored the wills of the families of the crackdown victims.

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