BANGKOK — A former Pheu Thai Party lawmaker has urged Thailand's ruling military junta to issue blanket amnesty to anyone convicted of "politically-related" charges over the past decade, a move attempted by the former government that sparked mass protests in 2013.
Somkid Cheukhon, a former Pheu Thai MP from Ubon Ratchani, said he was glad to see the junta express openness to granting demonstrators from both of Thailand’s political factions amnesty for charges or convictions related to their participation in protests.
On Friday junta chairman and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said he would not oppose an amnesty bill, as long as it did not extend to criminal charges or cases of lese majeste (insulting the monarchy).
However, Somkid has urged the junta go further and pardon anyone facing legal action for "politically-related" events since 2005, including protest leaders and politicians.
He also suggested the amnesty cover all charges, including criminal ones.
"In order to make the country peaceful and end disputes between the two sides with an amnesty, you must not think small," Somkid told Khaosod. "Because if the small ones get amnesty and the big ones do not, the dispute won't be over."
He added, "And it should be done to cover incidents of criminal charges, too, because protesters who have been charged with criminal charges were motivated by political protests as well."
Somkid's suggestion resembles the so-called blanket amnesty bill pursued by the Pheu Thai Party when it was in power in 2013. Although originally described as a law that would only grant amnesty to protesters, the final draft of the bill called for the dissolution of all politically-related charges and convictions since 2005.
Critics denounced the bill as thinly-veiled effort to waive the 2008 corruption conviction of Thaksin Shinawatra, a controversial former Prime Minister who has lived in self-imposed exile for the past seven years but remains the de facto leader of the Pheu Thai party.
The passage of the bill sparked mass anti-government protests that eventually culminated in the May 2014 coup d'etat.
Somkid also urged Gen. Prayuth to unilaterally enact the bill with the emergency powers granted to him under Section 44 of the interim charter.
"Gen. Prayuth can start right now by using his full power under Section 44," Somkid said, "Or he can order the NLA [the National Legislative Assembly] to deliberate the bill in three sessions at one go within one week, or one month."
"If the NCPO really goes ahead with this, I can assure you that Pheu Thai Party will not criticize it," Somkid continued, using an acronym for the junta's formal name, the National Council for Peace and Order. "But if the government is not yet ready for a full glass of water, I will accept a half glass of water, too."
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