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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

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.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid