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Whips give amnesty the cold shoulder

Deputy House Speaker Charoen Jankomol chairs a meeting in Parliament to discuss the passing of an amnesty law.

Deputy House Speaker Charoen Jankomol chairs a meeting in Parliament to discuss the passing of an amnesty law.

'Red' MP Worachai threatens to use his right to move item to House agenda for urgent deliberation

Coalition whips resolved yesterday to put an amnesty bill - seen as being pushed by the red shirts - on the back burner, with the government expected to drag its feet on the matter.

Pheu Thai MP Amnuay Klungpha, chairman of the coalition coordination committee on parliamentary affairs, said the whips decided not to put the bill, sponsored by red-shirt MP Worachai Hema and 41 other Pheu Thai lawmakers, on the House agenda.

Amnuay said the whips saw that there were several bills already on the House agenda that need to be assessed. He said Worachai's bill was submitted just last week, so it wasn't put on agenda yet.

Worachai has threatened to invoke his right as an MP to ask the House to put the bill on the agenda without waiting for the House Speaker to do so and thus have it bypass other drafts for deliberation.

Amnuay said Worachai had the right but he would need up to 250 votes of support from other MPs to put his bill on the agenda and move it to the top of the list.

Pheu Thai whip Piraphan Palusuk, a legal expert, said the majority of party MPs would not back Worachai's plan to have the House urgently consider his bill.

"Although the party agrees with the bill in principle, the timing is not right to push for its deliberation now," Piraphan said.

"More time will be needed to clear all the hurdles. If the bill is pushed for deliberation now, it won't sail through and it will lead to another round of turbulence."

Meanwhile, Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont's team asked social media users on Facebook from Thursday to Sunday whether they support with the amnesty law. The response showed 2,341 backed it and 7,455 opposed it.

Political observers said the government would not dare to push for the amnesty law and risk losing its stability, especially when it is pushing ahead with a Bt2-trillion investment programme. The ruling party's defeat in the Bangkok governor election is also seen as a sign that Bangkokians oppose the move for an amnesty law.

The whips' resolution was seen by observers as the government's latest effort to stall controversial amnesty moves after government opponents vowed to fight any amnesty law being enacted.

Government opponents sent a strong message of boycott against any amnesty law by not attending yesterday's "peace talks" moderated by Deputy Speaker Charoen Jankomol.

Pheu Thai had Charoen invite representatives from 11 sides to discuss enactment of an amnesty law, in a move seen as trying to show the increasingly restless red-shirts that it was serious in pushing the matter.

The 11 sides invited were: the coalition and Pheu Thai; the Democrat Party; the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship; the People's Alliance for Democracy; Nicha Thuwatham, to represent government officials killed during political turbulence; the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand; the Pitak Siam group; business operators affected by political violence; the military; the multicoloured-shirt group; Bhum Jai Thai Party.

But only representatives of groups on the government's side attended the meeting while the rest announced a boycott and vowed to campaign both inside and outside Parliament to oppose any such move.

The Democrats, the PAD and Pitak Siam, as well as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission did not attend the two-hour, closed-door meeting. Charoen said after he would invite the Democrats and the yellow-shirt groups to attend the next meeting.

Worse still for the government, Charoen's move provided a common cause for all-red shirt groups, plus the PAD, Pitak Siam and Democrat supporters, to reunite against efforts to enact an amnesty law.

With the latest pressure from Worachai's bill, the government is seen as being in a dilemma. If they push for the law, the yellow shirts will come out to protest - and they could face violent confrontations with the red shirts. And figures from the latest Bangkok governor election showed there are more than 1 million red-shirt people or Pheu Thai supporters in Bangkok.

The confrontations would not bode well for the government. Any violence could cause it to be ousted so top leaders want to avoid such a situation.

Charoen also appeared to lack determination to push for a solution. After the meeting, he told reporters he would invite Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva to a discussion with coalition whips on the opposition leader's call for four "reconciliation" bills submitted to the House in the last parliamentary session to be withdrawn.

Charoen admitted there would be several more meetings to discuss reconciliation measures as those who attended yesterday agreed all sides should have a chance to air their opinions at future meetings.

He said the meeting supported the principle of forgiving and remorse but all sides must ponder how to enact measures in detail.

The deputy speaker said he expected to be able to hold talks with the PAD, although PAD spokesman Parnthep Pourpongpan said earlier the group would boycott the amnesty process.

Observers said it was expected the government would buy time by having the Council of State study three amnesty law drafts submitted earlier. This would show the red shirts the government had not abandoned them, and would buy the coalition more time.






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