Panthongtae should talk amnesty with his dad, not Abhisit
Panthongtae Shinawatra was barking up the wrong tree. "Amnesty" is not up to the Democrats or their leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. It's up to the courage, or lack thereof, of the young Shinawatra's own father. Simple mathematics can tell you that.Thaksin Shinawatra knows that the ruling party can effect any political change it wants by exercising its parliamentary superiority. To blame Abhisit for failures to grant a general amnesty to people involved in Thailand's political turbulence is ironic, coming from the patriarch of a government that rarely heeds the voices of those dreading its controversial policies. The rice price pledging scheme has continued, despite warnings from left, right and centre. The Bt300 minimum wage rise has been implemented with little regard for economists' caution. The government's Thaksin-related acts have bordered on violation of the law.
So, why bother? Laws have been passed by governments despite opposition objection. If Panthongtae's father really believes the government's amnesty plan is good, he shouldn't worry too much about what Abhisit has to say about it. If the plan is sincere and can lead to genuine reconciliation, why not lay it on the table and let Abhisit shoot himself in the foot by stubbornly opposing it?
Panthongtae - writing on Facebook to convey his father's messages - and Abhisit said practically the same thing over the past two days, albeit for different reasons. Abhisit vowed to support an amnesty that benefits ordinary people and leaves out Thaksin, while Panthongtae claimed that what the Democrats want is basically the main goal. Abhisit should stop worrying too much about his father, Panthongtae said.
Shouldn't it be the other way round, in this case? Shouldn't it be that Thaksin should stop worrying too much about Abhisit where amnesty is concerned?
One argument has it that amnesty requires a political consensus, purportedly for reconciliation's sake. This is assuming that if Abhisit says "Yes", it will silence certain others. Truth is, the government's amnesty programme will be scrutinised inside and out by Thai society, with or without Abhisit. "Political consensus" must come from Thais seeing more benefits than drawbacks in the amnesty, not from what an opposition leader writes on Facebook.
So, why is a political party that won a landslide victory in the last election and is poised to take over Bangkok city hall in the upcoming gubernatorial election paying attention to the opposition all of a sudden? There are probably two main reasons. One is that amnesty would really benefit Thaksin, among others, after all, and a "unanimous passage" is needed to cushion the blows from outside Parliament. The other possible reason is that Abhisit's opposition to amnesty is being used as a smokescreen.
Thaksin's conviction, jail sentence and his seized assets are the main complication in this amnesty affair, but they are not the only complication. With the red shirts clamouring for "justice", an amnesty that covers people they blame for "injustice" will be unacceptable. While the government may prefer a blanket amnesty to make the whole thing look politically and internationally good, "amnesty" in the eyes of the red shirts has to be something one-sided.
Now we see Pheu Thai's (or Thaksin's, if you will) dilemma. If a blanket amnesty cleared Abhisit, Suthep Thaugsuban or anybody else blamed for the Ratchaprasong "massacre" and allowed Thaksin to return home triumphantly, the red shirts would start asking, "What do we get?" If Abhisit, Suthep and the like are kept out of an amnesty, it wouldn't lead to reconciliation as claimed by the government. In fact, this latter scenario could be seen internationally as part of a vicious circle of vengeful politics in which "democratic power" is exercised dubiously.
Can Thaksin, or the government, use money to pay off the red shirts and make them accept "two-sided" amnesty? There are two things to consider. First, money speaks differently to different people. Second, throwing money around to solve or ease problems doesn't require serious political manoeuvring, meaning this measure would have been enforced fully a long time ago if it could work.
Thaksin's real problem is clear now. How can both Abhisit and the red shirts be made to accept the same amnesty at the same time? While Pheu Thai's supreme patriarch, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung go on searching for the magic formula for amnesty, why not find one scapegoat to blame for the delay. Abhisit, despite his pitiful number of hands in Parliament, fits the bill.
Instead of criticising Abhisit on Facebook, Panthongtae should ask his father these questions: The last time I checked, Pheu Thai could pass any bill it wanted. Shouldn't we do that again now? And if amnesty will serve reconciliation like you told me, shouldn't we screw "consensus" and be brave enough to push for it? Are we giving Abhisit more credit than he deserves? And for the record here - so I can dismiss all the taunts on the social media - amnesty wouldn't bring you home a free man and give you back all the money, would it?