Pheu Thai 'Will Not' Withdraw Blanket Amnesty Bill

Protesters against the 'blanket amnesty' bill, which is also nicknamed as 'Mao Keng (all in the basket' amnesty, in front of the United Nations office in Bangkok, 24 October 2013.

(24 October) A top official of the ruling Pheu Thai Party has insisted the party will go ahead with its controversial amnesty bill, in spite of the growing dissents among the party cadets against the bill.

Nicknamed ?amnesty for all?, ?blanket amnesty?, ?Suud Soi (the end of the alley)?, and ?Mao Keng (all in the basket)?, the draft offers amnesty to all parties involved in the political conflict dated back to 2006, including former leaders Thaksin Shinawatra and Abhisit Vejjajiva, the military, and protesters of all sides and their leaders that are facing legal action.

The current version of the draft, after it had been revised by a House committee, significant departure from the original draft proposed to the Parliament by Pheu Thai MP Worachai Hema, who exempts Mr. Abhisit, Mr. Thaksin, and the protest leaders from his amnesty draft.

Many activists and political allies of Pheu Thai Party denounced the revised bill, arguing that it would upset the ongoing legal process against Mr. Abhisit who had authorised a military crackdown against the Redshirts protesters in 2010, which led to deaths of over 90 people, mostly civilians.

But Mr Phumtham Vejjayachai, Secretary-General of Pheu Thai Party, said there would be no going back.

"I can confirm that we will not withdraw the draft" in favour of Mr. Worachai′s proposal, Mr. Phumtham told Khaosod.

He denied "betraying the people", as many Redshirts activists has claimed, saying that Mr. Worachai′s bill might be subject to legal challenge if Pheu Thai Party were to adopt it.

The original draft of the bill, which promised amnesty only to ordinary protesters and those currently detained for protests-related charges, might violate the Constitutional body that insists on non-discrimination in all laws passed by the Parliament, Mr. Phumtham said.

"We don?t want the entire bill to be killed," said Mr. Phumtham, "The people won?t get anything out of it".

He added that the process of the bill is transparent and based on rightful principles.

Mr. Phumtham also dismissed the opposition to the draft, saying that they "belong to the same old groups" that have been campaigning against the government.

However, apart from anti-government critics who oppose the bill out of fear that Mr. Thaksin will return to power in Thailand, the dissenting voices also came from within Pheu Thai Party itself.
 

Pheu Thai MP Weng Tojirakarn said in a press conference today that he wants to ask his fellow Pheu Thai cadets whether they "truly love Mr. Thaksin".

"Do they want Mr. Thaksin to return to Thailand in an unblemished manner?" Mr. Weng asked, arguing that the revised amnesty bill would only turn the public opinion against the former Prime Minister.

He also warned that even if the bill is passed by the Parliament, it would still be subject to scrutiny by the Constitutional Court, its chance of survival uncertain. "The [revised] amnesty bill will never succeed in bringing Mr. Thaksin home," Mr. Weng added.

His comments followed the insistence of other prominent Pheu Thai figures such as Mr. Nattawut Saikua who similarly argued against the ?amnesty for all?. Ms. Thida Tojirakarn, the chairwoman of the official Redshirts leadership, also rejected the bill, noting that those responsible for 2010 crackdown do not deserve amnesty.

In the letter submitted today to the House Committee on the amnesty bill, Ms. Payao Akhard, a representative of families of the victims who died in 2010 crackdown, stressed her position that she will not accept the amnesty for the authorities behind the lethal crackdown.

Ms. Payao, who lost her daughter in the last day of the military operation in May 2010, urged Pheu Thai Party to reconsider its stance on the ?blanket amnesty?, recalling that the party had previously called for legal prosecution against the security forces and Mr. Abhisit during the election season of 2011.

She also lashed out at former Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat who had urged "all sides to sacrifice" and adopt the ?amnesty for all?. "Mr. Somchai said we have to make sacrifices so that the country can move forward. But we have been making so much sacrifice already," Ms. Payao said.

She continued, "The Redshirts have lost their family members. Is their sacrifice not big enough? I would like to see Mr. Thaksin making his own sacrifice, too".

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