Red shirts' amnesty plan is short on details
The debate over amnesty in connection with the 2010 political mayhem will not make headway unless the red shirts get down to the specifics of what such legal absolution would entail.
Red-shirt leader Thida Thavornseth has designated 2013 as the year to push for amnesty for all protesters involved in political rallies from January 2007 to December 2011.
To kick-start her crusade on Tuesday, Thida unveiled a draft decree to absolve protesters of all political stripes of legal accountability, except for rally organisers and masterminds behind the political violence.
Preceding Thida's move, the Nitirat Group of anti-coup academics demanded that amnesty for all involved in the political violence be enshrined in charter provisions.
The parties concerned have given lukewarm responses to the two amnesty proposals.
Their reactions varied from questioning the legal technicalities associated with granting amnesty to alleging an ulterior motive to rescue fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Wattana Sengpairoh, spokesman for the House speaker, said he was doubtful whether amnesty, if granted as per the two proposals, would conform to the rule of law. Wattana made it clear he did not oppose the idea of granting amnesty; he just wanted it done properly.
His remarks happen to mirror the views of many, including critics and supporters of the red shirts.
If the red shirts are serious in trying to bring about amnesty, they should outline the details of how they would implement the amnesty idea in a practical manner.
At present they are using fancy words, but stop short of spelling out practical steps to translate the idea into reality.
Thida has a lot of explaining to do if she wants to dispel lingering doubts on why red leaders are enjoying the perks while their foot soldiers are trying to survive various stages of prosecution.
For now, these foot soldiers may be pacified by the idea of amnesty. But their wrath would be catastrophic if they found they had been left with an empty promise.
The amnesty proposal advanced by Nitirat is very theoretical and might not warrant attention at this juncture, since it hinges on a rewrite of the Constitution, which has not been activated yet.
In contrast, Thida has been pushing for a draft decree on amnesty via the government.
If the draft had all the necessary specifics, then the government could act on it without delay. It is unfortunate, however, that the draft provisions have triggered confusion.
The confusion appears so deep that all government leaders have opted for silence as a virtue.
If the amnesty debate is to gain momentum, Thida, or her colleagues, should clarify the following issues:
First, the distinction between protesters, organisers and masterminds for each violent incident.
Second, the criteria for classifying criminal violations linked to the political protests.
Third, whether the amnesty should apply to a number of cases not linked to the protests, but which Thida sees as politically motivated. If it should, criteria would be needed to classify such cases.
Fourth, how to prevent the government's usurping of judicial power if amnesty is granted to defendants fighting trials.
Fifth - given that amnesty for convicted protesters who burned down provincial halls would not cover organisers - whether red leaders would be willing to face prosecution as masterminds in such cases.
Sixth - given that the government is targeting two Democrats, Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thuagsuban, for prosecution over the deaths and injuries inflicted by soldiers - whether red-shirt leaders should be held accountable for deaths and injuries inflicted by armed protesters.