Amnesty Law back on Pheu Thai party's agenda
After being put on the back-burner for the gubernatorial race, the heat of political conflicts is set to flare up again.One issue that coalition-leader Pheu Thai paused over, for fear it would affect its gubernatorial candidate, was finding a solution to the calls for an amnesty law.
Before the pause, three proposals for an amnesty law had been floated, by the 29 January United Front, the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD) and the Independent National Rule of Law Commission. The proposed drafts were sent to the Council of State for consideration.
So far, the Council of State, which is the government's legal advisory body, has not come up with any suggestions. Suggestions are expected soon, presuming Pheu Thai is not just seeking to buy time.
Moreover, Deputy House Speaker Charoen Chankomol has also invited representatives of all sides to discussions on ways to bring about reconciliation. Following the first meeting, Charoen proposed two bills. The first bill would absolve demonstrators who violated the 2010 emergency decree. The second bill would seek to end political conflicts by absolving leaders of the 2010 protests.
Charoen has renewed his efforts by inviting representatives of Pheu Thai, the Democrats, the yellow shirts and the red-shirts to a meeting on Monday. So far, Pheu Thai and the red-shirt movement have agreed to attend, but the Democrats and yellow shirts turned down the invitation.
The Democrat Party has insisted on its stand that those in violation of the penal code and the lese majeste law and those who were guilty of corruption should not be absolved. The Democrats also fear being deceived into supporting an amnesty bill that could be amended during vetting to absolve red-shirt leaders as well.
The People's Alliance for Democracy said it would send a letter to affirm its stand to Charoen without taking part in a meeting.
Moreover, the Democrat and PAD leaders believe they have done nothing wrong and would thus be able to defend themselves in court without the need of an amnesty law.
In its latest move, the red-shirt movement is preparing to propose two more bills. One would seek amnesty for violators of the emergency decree while the other would seek to end political conflicts or would be related to protest leaders. As such, the two bills would be similar to Charoen's proposals. The red shirts are set to propose the bills despite having already proposed a draft amnesty law.
The question is, why do the red-shirt leaders need to rush to push for amnesty now, when the violators of the emergency decree have already been freed? Red-shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan has himself said that only those who violated the Penal Code are still in jail.
Moreover, the government apparently does not want to touch Article 112 - the lese majeste law - which the January 29 United Front wants to amend. As a result, the two bills proposed by the red-shirt movement would benefit no one.
So, the goal of the red-shirt leaders is definitely the passage of the second bill, because all leaders of the protesters would benefit by it. The cases against them have progressed significantly and, if the court finds them guilty, they will be sent to jail.
All these conditions make it hard to view the red-shirt leaders' intentions in any other light.
It seems they dare not seek amnesty for themselves right away, so they must first seek amnesty for the general protesters, and only then push their own case.
However, Pheu Thai will find it difficult to pass an amnesty bill that benefits the red-shirt leadership, because of the strong opposition this would meet from the other side. If Pheu Thai uses its majority to push for amnesty for the protest leaders, it would not be able to end political conflicts in line with the spirit of the bill.
So, Pheu Thai needs to cite general protesters as an excuse to seek amnesty for the leaders.