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Bangkok: Reconciliation bill comes under fire

BANGKOK: The reconciliation bill sponsored by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung is facing growing opposition as it would exonerate those responsible for the crackdown on the 2010 red shirt protests.

By Bangkok Post

Sunday 19 May 2013, 02:02PM

The bill seeks to grant amnesty to people who have committed offences related to politics. This would include those responsible for the deaths of red shirts during the street protests three years ago that sought to overthrow the Democrat-led government, Somkid Cheukong, a Pheu Thai MP for Ubon Ratchathani, said.

The red shirts would find this difficult to accept and Mr Chalerm would struggle to convince them of the merits of the bill, he said.

Mr Chalerm plans to submit the reconciliation bill, which contains six sections, to parliament on Thursday. It reportedly covers everyone affected by political violence since 2006.

While the deputy prime minister might have meant well by putting the bill forward, public sentiment is not with him, Mr Somkid said.

Mr Chalerm also has to explain how the bill would benefit all parties and address concerns that it is not intended solely to bring Thaksin Shinawatra home a free man, he said.

Thaksin was sentenced to a two-year jail term in 2008 following a conviction for corruption.

Mr Somkid is among the 42 Pheu Thai MPs co-sponsoring a separate amnesty bill for all political offenders, except protest leaders, convicted between Sept 19, 2006 and May 10, 2011. The group is led by Worachai Hema.

Mr Worachai's bill is awaiting debate in its first reading in parliament. United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) core leader Weng Tojirakarn said Mr Chalerm had the reconciliation bill drafted to honour his words to bring Thaksin home.

But Mr Weng said he stands firm on bringing the killers of the red shirts to justice. "There can never be reconciliation without true justice," he said.

Pheu Thai has affirmed its support for the Worachai bill. But if it switches to support the reconciliation bill instead, the ruling party would be criticised for flip-flopping, Mr Weng said.

However, the resistance of some red shirts to the reconciliation bill does not threaten to destabilise the movement, he said.

Red shirt co-leader Nattawut Saikuar, who is also commerce deputy minister, insisted the Chalerm bill, the Worachai bill and a draft executive decree on amnesty being pushed by the UDD shared the same aim of overcoming social conflicts.

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However, he stressed that the UDD should be consulted before the reconciliation bill proceeds through parliament.

Mr Weng and Mr Nattawut were speaking ahead of the UDD's rally today at the Ratchaprasong intersection to mark the third anniversary of the deadly clashes between red shirts and the security forces on May 19, 2010.

A number of academics and relatives of demonstrators who died in the April-May 2010 political violence also disagreed with the reconciliation bill's blanket amnesty.

"It is inappropriate, if not unwise, to make such a move during the mourning and commemorations of those who died and were injured [in the 2010 clashes]," Thammasat University lecturer Somsak Jeamteerasakul wrote on his Facebook page yesterday.

Thaksin should make his position on the bill clear when he addresses today's gathering at Ratchaprasong, he said.

Banjerd Fungklinchan, whose son was killed during clashes at Khok Wua intersection on April 10, 2010, is opposed to the amnesty bill.

"How can we forgive before justice is served?" he asked.

Law Reform Commission member Somchai Homlaor, who is also a former member of the now-defunct Truth for Reconciliation Commission (TRC), said Pheu Thai's amnesty push was not in line with the suggestion his committee made that the process not be rushed.

"There must be a process with a specific timeline for realising bona fide national reconciliation," he said.

Meanwhile, Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said Mr Nattawut should say whether the reconciliation bill is part of a larger scheme orchestrated by the red shirt leaders to try to exonerate Thaksin and return 46 billion baht in assets that were seized from him.

Democrat list-MP Ong-art Klampaiboon said he expects public opposition to mount if and when an amnesty bill is put to parliament.

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