The country has sustained damage inflicted by political conflict for the past 10 years.
After I was elected to take office, I believe every Thai citizen agreed the country would not move forward if the conflict persisted.
When this government took office, I announced a clear policy to bring about reconciliation under the rule of law. Recently, I pushed to form a political-reform venue where all differing sides could join hands to mend fences and foster unity.
Under the democratic principle of balanced sharing of powers, the government – particularly myself as the prime minister – has refrained from interfering with the legislature, as seen in the case of amending the Constitution.
I have been wrongly accused of neglecting to perform my concurrent duty as MP when, in fact, I want the legislature to freely do its job.
In regard to the recent House vote for the passage of the amnesty bill, which has spawned much public debate, it is a fact that countries, when mired in political conflict causing loss of lives and properties, would grant amnesty. Thailand should emulate the amnesty lesson.
In principle, amnesty is an option worthy of consideration. If all sides agree to forgive each other, I believe the conflict would dissipate and the country would move on.
It is to be regretted that hundreds of people were killed and thousands were injured in the political violence triggered by attempts to overthrow an elected government.
Amnesty does not mean we should forget this painful lesson. We are obliged to learn and understand, so that our children would not face a repeat of such tragedies.
In the meantime, we have to cooperate with one another to overcome the conflict and move the country forward.
The resumption of peace means all sides must grant forgiveness – without bias or emotion – and be open-minded to allow the airing of dissenting opinions. I understand this is difficult to do, but we have to put the greater good before personal interest.
As of today, the amnesty bill was passed by the House and forwarded to the Senate for deliberation. This is in accordance with normal legislative proceedings.
Relevant parties have differing views on amnesty, spawning wide differences among sectors of society, institutions, and between and within political parties.
Despite the House passage of the bill, several groups appear not ready to embrace forgiveness and are mired in differences.
I don’t want to see the politicisation of the bill with the aim of unseating the elected government and derailing democratic rule once again.
The bill has been distorted to cause misunderstanding as a fiscal issue. I, as the prime minister, would have to endorse a fiscal-related bill, but I have never lent my signature to endorsing amnesty.
More importantly, the bill is being portrayed as a whitewash of corruption, but this is beside the point. Amnesty is designed to absolve victims of the power seizure, which happened outside the rule of law, and those accused of committing offences related to life, physical injury and property.
I reaffirm that the government will strive to serve the national interests and that it will not use its majority contrary to the people’s feelings.
I will heed the views of proponents and opponents. The government’s main goal is to bring about reconciliation.
In the face of prevailing differences, the government would like all sides to pause in order to stop causing further divisiveness.
Under the Constitution, the bill is now under the purview of the Senate.
I want to plead for the senators, those appointed and those elected, to use their discretion while deliberating the bill. It is well known that the Senate is beyond interference.
So I hope the senators will deliberate on the bill on the basis of forgiveness and compassion so as to dispense justice equally for those with grievances and pain.
The deliberation on amnesty should factor into the country’s interest. Regardless of the outcome of the Senate’s decision, be it to disagree with, to withhold or to revise the bill, I believe the Members of Parliament, who cast the vote for the bill’s passage, will accept the result for the sake of reconciliation.
The legislative procedures should prevail to completion and everyone should uphold this in order to safeguard the freedom of every Thai citizen.
In conclusion, I would like to thank everyone in the legislature for striving to achieve reconciliation. It is now time for all Thai citizens to unite and decide on the way to bring about understanding without bias and emotion. Open-heartedness and compassion should be the basis to achieve reconciliation.