October 25, 2013 00:00 By KHANITTHA THEPPHAJORN,
Red shirt faction plans rally; aliance warns bill will aid corrupt politicians
RED SUNDAY, a faction of the red-shirt movement, will on Sunday organise a rally at the Ratchaprasong intersection to oppose the revised amnesty bill, its leader Sombat Boonngam-anong said yesterday.
“The rally will send a signal to the Pheu Thai Party about where the people who took part in the political struggle really stand on the amnesty issue,” he said.
Sombat said blanket amnesty, if granted to the political overseers who were in charge of the crackdown on the red-shirt rally at Ratchaprasong in 2010, would in effect deny the reds the legitimacy to continue their political struggle.
He said the red shirts would apply strong pressure on the ruling party to revert back to the original draft sponsored by Pheu Thai MP Worachai Hema.
Worachai’s version was designed to provide amnesty to ordinary protesters.
Proponents of blanket amnesty had no justification to cite legal equality as a reason for absolving all individuals involved, because they neglected to address lese majeste offences, he said.
Pramon Sutivong, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, said his group would hold a press conference on Monday at Arnoma Hotel to declare its stance against the amnesty bill, which the group believes will provide blanket amnesty and cover those convicted of corruption.
Among the organisation’s members are prominent business-sector groups such as the Federation of Thai Industries and the Thai Chamber of Commerce, Pramon said. These groups had acknowledged his organisation’s stance and had not opposed it, Pramon said, so he hoped other such alliances would adopt the same stance.
The House ad hoc committee vetting the amnesty bill scheduled sessions yesterday(Thursday) and today to hear from members who disagree with its resolution, and to allow them to present proposals to alter the motion. Their comments would be put in a report, which will be presented to the House session during the second reading of the bill.
Committee chairman Samart Kaew-mechai, from the Pheu Thai Party, said he would not rush the meeting. However, he insisted there would be no extension of the meeting days on which the panel members could speak on altering the motion, and there would be no revision of the resolution the committee decided upon last week.
“The committee made this consideration based on the principle of forgiveness, and according to the Constitution. People who disagree can [propose to] alter the motion and let the House session decide,” he said.
Samart yesterday clarified that the revised amnesty bill would not absolve those tried and convicted for corruption. He said the bill would only apply to criminal offences related to the political mayhem.
Samart intervened to clarify after the Democrats and coalition lawmakers exchanged sharp words during the committee meeting.
The Democrats demanded that the revised bill be clear on two issues – the intention in the annulling the work of the Assets Examination Commission appointed after the 2006 coup, and the assets seizure of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Payao Akahad, mother of Kamolket, a paramedic who died in the crackdown in 2010, yesterday submitted a letter to Samart. Her group, which includes relatives of the victims of the crackdown, called on the committee to amend a clause in the bill so that the people who ordered it do not get amnesty.
The group also called on the government to speed up assistance in obtaining bail for people detained during the incident, to delay the passage of the amnesty bill and to hold public hearings on the issue.
She said that unless the group received a response on its request, it would discuss the possibility of staging a rally.
Pheu Thai MP Weng Tojirakarn said he was sceptical that the revised amnesty bill could be enforced so long as coup-related immunity remained intact. Amnesty for those found guilty in coup-sponsored litigation might be voided by Article 309 of the Constitution, which upholds coup-related activities, he said.
He voiced concern that the bill in its revised version might be cancelled by the Constitution Court.
He also said amnesty would not pave way for the homecoming of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
“The amnesty will backfire by fanning opposition to unconditional absolution, which would, in turn, create unfavourable sentiment for Thaksin,” he said.
Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri played down a National Institute of Develo-pment Administration opinion poll in which a majority of respondents opposed revising the amnesty bill.
Amnesty legislation should be under the purview of lawmakers, who receive their mandate through elections, Chaikasem said.
The relevant parties should allow Parliament to do its job instead of taking to the streets, he said, adding that he was in favour of granting amnesty to all sides involved in the conflict.
While coup-sponsored probes into graft cases could be revived after granting amnesty to those involved, this might not be a good idea because then the absolution would have failed to end the animosity in Thai politics, he said.
Earlier this week, Thaksin told Thai-language daily Post Today he supported the amnesty bill as it would reset relations among all political players.
Thaksin said he was not thinking of his own benefit – being whitewashed under the law and getting his assets back – but the next generation’s.