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Red shirts feel betrayed

Pre-dawn amnesty push turns anger against Thaksin and Pheu Thai

FOUR RED-SHIRT Pheu Thai MPs, including Weng Tojirakarn, abstained from voting for the controversial amnesty bill yesterday.

Red-shirt MP Korkaew Pikulthong, however, did vote in support of the bill. He later posted a message on his Facebook account saying he had voted as a Pheu Thai MP and not as a red-shirt co-leader.

"Out of respect for the voice of the majority, I have never opposed the opinion of the majority as a red-shirt co-leader whenever there's a resolution, even if I may personally disagree … To red-shirt brothers and sisters who are upset with me, you can criticise or curse me as much as you like and I accept it and would like to apologise for having a different opinion on the matter. But this is my frank confession."

A highly placed source said former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra might decide it is time to break with the so-called progressive red shirts who oppose the lese majeste law as they have become a liability in the reconciliation process with the traditional elite.

The source also said Thaksin felt the relatives of those killed in 2010 had already received Bt7.5 million each and some red-shirt co-leaders had become MPs or been appointed to other government positions.

In a special session of the House of Representatives, lawmakers voted 310:0 to pass the third reading of the bill early yesterday. Four Pheu Thai MPs - Nuttawut Saikuar, Weng Tojirakarn, Worachai Hema and Khattiya Sawasdipol - abstained from the vote.

Seven Pheu Thai MPs who are also red-shirt leaders voted in support of the amnesty bill. They are Korkaew Pikulthong, Cherdchai Tontisirin, Apiwan Wiriyachai, Wiphuthalang Phattanaphumthai, Phayap Punket, Shinawatra Haboonpad and Prasit Chaisisa.

All of them are party-list MPs, except Prasit, who is a Surin MP.

Meanwhile 29 of 33 opposition Bhum Jai Thai Party MPs voted in support of the amnesty bill. They included Chai Chidchob, Jakrawal Chaiwiratkul, and Sopon Saram. The four other MPs abstained.

In a related development, relatives of those killed in the April-May 2010 crackdown and the so-called progressive wing of the red shirts reacted with a sense of betrayal and deep anger against the party and ousted and convicted former prime minister Thaksin.

Phayaw Akkahad, mother of slain nurse Kamolkaed Akkahad, said she felt betrayed by Thaksin but vowed to fight on until those responsible are brought to justice.

"What Thaksin did today was an act of betrayal against the people. Thaksin became ungrateful to the 15 million people who voted for him," said Phayaw, sounding noticeably upset. She said she and other relatives of those killed in 2010 would soon call a press conference, and insisted that she would not give up calling for the end to the immunity even if she had to fight alone.

A group of 20 red-shirt university students led by Panitan Prueksakasemsuk, son of lese majeste convict Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and a senior law student at Thammasat University, staged a protest in front of the Pheu Thai Party headquarters. Organising a play mocking Thaksin under the title "Stepping on Dead Bodies to Return Home", Panitan told The Nation that his feelings towards Thaksin had changed and the development demonstrated that most politicians cannot be trusted.

The red-shirt movement, said Panitan, is now divided over the issue, but the blame must be placed squarely on Thaksin and the Pheu Thai Party and not on those who oppose the blanket amnesty, he stressed.

Sombat Boonngam-anong, Red Sunday group leader, said he would try to muster 10,000 red shirts on November 10 to demonstrate against the bill. Sombat acknowledged that there was nothing opponents of the bill could do to stop the parliamentary process but added that the red-shirt movement must reform itself.

Sombat said that perhaps Thaksin knew something that the public at large did not. Some red shirts have speculated that a deal had already been struck by the elite on both sides of the political divide to ensure immunity and exoneration for all key figures.


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