Ukrit: a man in a hurry. But why?
Ukrit Mongkolnavin, chairman of the government-appointed Independent National Rule of Law Commission (NRLC), displayed an unusually aggressive stance when he explained his panel's proposed amnesty bill at his press conference on Tuesday.Many political observers were left wondering what his real intent was in this latest move.
Two other proposals for an amnesty bill have been put forward, one by the Nitirat group of academics, which calls for amnesty to be written into the Constitution, and one by the red-shirt movement, which is pushing for amnesty to be granted through an emergency decree.
Compared to those of the two groups, the proposal by Ukrit's panel - which calls for amnesty to be granted through an act - appears to be "the middle path" and is most likely to be acceptable.
Nitirat's proposal suggests that amnesty be granted to the protesters only. But the proposal by Ukrit's panel says amnesty should be granted to both protesters and state officials, excluding the protest leaders and the state policy-makers involved. This is similar to the red shirts' proposal. However, Ukrit's NRLC opts for an amnesty act that requires the involvement of Parliament, and not just the administration alone, in issuing a new law.
Something that aroused suspicion was Ukrit's aggressive stance. Judging from his tone, Ukrit appeared to be demanding that the government urgently bring an amnesty bill to Parliament. The government has preferred a prudent way - by consulting with the Council of State, its legal advisory agency, about this matter.
Ukrit also urged the House of Representatives to use a special method in deliberating the amnesty bill. He suggested that a committee consisting of all the MPs be set up to vet the bill and that the bill should be passed quickly in three successive readings. Then, a week later, the bill could be forwarded to the Senate for endorsement.
According to Ukrit, if things go as expected, an amnesty act could become effective no later than April 15 - before the end of the current parliamentary session on April 19.
The question is why he opted to play hardball by pressuring both the administration and the legislature.
One possible answer may be that Ukrit wants his proposed amnesty act to be promulgated within the current parliamentary session, although he is aware that with the ruling Pheu Thai Party's majority in the House, such a law could be issued sooner or later.
Many MPs, both from the governing coalition and the opposition, have been obviously dissatisfied with the way Ukrit is pushing his panel's proposal. They expressed opposition to the proposal, and some opposition MPs called it "daydreaming".
Due to the nature of this legislation, the politicians are aware that it is not an ordinary one. A "fast-track" approach to allow a quick passage through Parliament is unlikely to settle the political conflict or bring about reconciliation - something this bill is supposed to help achieve. The special approach would only lead to a deeper rift, as it would be difficult for parliamentarians to change any clause in the draft law.
Ukrit's latest move was certainly not accidental.
The question is: what was his motive? Did he simply want to push for an amnesty law that is needed by certain politicians? Did he have a hidden motive of causing a negative impact for the amnesty campaign? Did he just want to attract media attention and publicity for himself?
We should know the answer soon.