News / Asia

    Thai Amnesty Bill Revives Worries of Political Tensions

    Protesters wave Thai national flags as their leaders appear on stage during a protest in central Bangkok on November 1, 2013.
    Protesters wave Thai national flags as their leaders appear on stage during a protest in central Bangkok on November 1, 2013.
    Ron Corben
    An amnesty bill passed by Thailand’s lower house of parliament Friday is raising fears that it could pave the way for the return of controversial former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who has been living in exile. The legislation, if approved by the Senate and cleared by courts, would grant amnesty to many involved in the country's political turmoil over the past decade.

    Thousands of supporters of the opposition Democrat Party held protests across Bangkok Friday to denounce the bill passed by the governing Pheu Thai Party early.  Opposition members of parliament had boycotted the vote.

    The Thai government says the bill is vital for fostering political reconciliation after more than a decade of political conflict. The legislation, which next goes to the upper house, the Senate, grants amnesties to all those involved in the sometimes violent and deadly protests and rallies from 2004 through August of this year.

    Political conflicts have deeply divided Thailand since 2005. The split is largely between supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and a broad-based opposition including the Democrat Party.

    Opposition and business groups say the legislation will undermine the rule of law. Family members of the more than 90 people who died in the political violence say that it prevents them from holding those responsible accountable.

    Kraisak Choonhavan, a Democrat Party member, said the law, backed strongly by the party of the former prime minister, clearly favors clearing him of many legal challenges.

    "If you pass the bill it does not mean at all that people that have been arrested or remain arrested, or cases are still going to court will necessarily get amnesty because it's such a shoddy job," he said. "What they want is just to have a very wide interpretation of amnesty in order to benefit one person -- and that is Thaksin Shinawatra."

    Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra pictured in Cambodia on April 14, 2012.Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra pictured in Cambodia on April 14, 2012.
    x
    Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra pictured in Cambodia on April 14, 2012.
    Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra pictured in Cambodia on April 14, 2012.
    Thaksin, a billionaire turned politician built support among the rural regions and urban and middle working class. But he has been accused of corruption and abuse of power. He was ousted in a coup in 2006, and fled into exile in 2008 to avoid a two year jail sentence for corruption. In 2010 the Thai Supreme Court seized $1.5 billion of Thaksin's assets, saying he illegally gained them while in power.

    Chris Baker, an author and commentator on Thai politics, said the Thai Government, currently led by Thaksin's younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, appears confident that the bill will survive legal challenges and street protests.

    "It will certainly be challenged," Baker said. "People will launch court cases saying this was unconstitutional because of the way it was changed and there will be people on the streets. Obviously Thaksin and company have made a calculation they could tough it out because the demonstration recently have been pretty miniature. I think it's a question of what will happen."

    Yingluck Shinawatra, has presided over a largely stable government since her party swept elections in 2011. But her government is facing mounting pressures from protests and legal challenges to its legislative initiatives. Analysts say the party could call for elections in early 2014 in a bid for a renewed mandate.

    You May Like

    Ugandan Opposition Candidate: Only Intimidation, Vote Buying Can Prevent Victory

    Kizza Besigye says he has been drawing large crowds and claims he has widespred support ahead of Feb. 18 vote

    HRW: Both Sides in Ukraine Conflict Targeted, Used Schools

    Rights group documents how both sides in Ukraine conflict carried out attacks on schools and used them for military purposes

    Sanctions Just Got Real for Over 54,000 North Koreans

    Shuttering of Kaesong complex ends virtually any hope of peaceful settlement to long-standing tensions on Korean peninsula in near future

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.