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Thailand: Amnesty or Reconciliation Bills?

After more than six years of protracted political conflict, Thai parliamentarians have began drafting several reconciliation bills to promote national unity. There are four versions to the proposed unity bills. Three out of the four were presided over by the largest ruling party, Pheu Thai.

None of the proposed bills included the Democrat Party, the largest opposition, however. Also note that none of the proposed bills mention Article 112 of the penal code, which has been a lingering source of tension. The most important commonality among these proposed bills is the notion of amnesty. While timeframe varies, it's clear that there is political will to give amnesty to individuals, including state officials, who may have violated the laws during the crisis. The proposed amnesty would be far more sweeping than Thailand has seen in decades.

A mob near the Thai Parliament in 2008. Photo from Flickr used under CC License

Given the recent mayhem in parliament, the debate on the bills has been put on hold at least until the next parliamentary session in August. This has ended speculation that the third reading might be called in the House-Senate joint meeting.

The public reaction towards the proposed unity bills have been rather negative. ABAC Poll taken in early June reveals 66% of the respondents do not see a unity bill as a solution to solve the political conflict. The majority of the respondents, more than 88%, would like to see the government plunge into the day-to-day issues such as rising cost of living, rather than focusing their effort on such a bill. Indeed, on average, some 80% of the respondents were unaware of a reconciliation bill. Suan Dusit Poll taken in late May shares similar pessimism.

Online, the proposed bills elicited significant skepticism, if not outright pessimism. On Kapook web board, several netizens saw this as “amnesty bills” and not “reconciliation bills.” Comment # 631 says:

“The name is reconciliation but really who is this bill for? If you did something wrong, then you should be responsible for it. You can't make right the wrong.”

Similarly, Comment # 620 says:

“Now let's go torch the city (again) and perhaps this time we would really become somebody.”

Some people do not think the unity bills go far enough.

“Since the bill is supposed to make amends with those affected by the political crisis, what about the vendors and shop keepers who lost their business as a result of the ongoing demonstrations? Will they get compensated too?” says Comment # 591.

On OkNation, rattiya asks where has all the legal profession gone.

“No reaction is tantamount to an acceptance” (Comment # 9).

On Pantip web board, various netizen tried to understand opposition to the bills, particularly from the Democrat Party. Crimeson Tide claims

“If there is peace in the country, Pheu Thai will be in government for a long time and the Democrats will become a permanent opposition. Why would the Democrats want any peace?”

Mee Panya Kue Awut says:

“There seems to be a lot of vested interest in the bill. Many political elites will reap benefits from this.”

Ying Hua Jai Prachatippatai resigns:

“If you don't want to reconcile, then don't. I just wish the courts would remain impartial and have conscience. There will be many more cases to work on.”

All official drafts can be viewed on-line at the Thai Parliament Information System. Below is an unofficial translation of some of the major components of the proposed bills.

Draft I: proposed by General Sonthi Boonyaratklin (Matubhumi Party) and MPs from Chart Thai Pattana Party, Mahachon Party, Chart Pattana Party, Palangchol Party, New Democrat Party, Pheau Thai Party

 Article 3. Anyone whose actions relating to political protests or political activities between 15 September 2005 and 10 May 2011 that were against the law shall be given amnesty. This applies to both ordinary citizens and state authorities.

 Article 4. Any pending investigation on individuals who meet the criteria of article 3 must cease and anyone who has partially served his/her term will be released immediately.

 Article 5. Any individual who has been affected by the action of individuals, groups or authorities set up by the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRCM) will no longer be considered as an offender. Article 4 will apply to such individual.  Article 6. Voting rights of members of political parties that were dissolved shall be reinstated.

Draft II: proposed by Niyom Worapanya and Pheu Thai MPs

 Article 3. Any individual or groups who were affected by the coup d’état on 19 September 2006 up until the day this legislation is promulgated shall be given amnesty. This includes individuals and state officials who acted on the orders of the CDRCM; individuals whose political rights have been revoked; actions relating to protest or opposition to the CDRCM; actions by independent bodies according to articles 1,2,3 and 4 of the interim 2006 constitution or the 2007 constitution.

Draft III: proposed by Nattawut Saikua and Pheu Thai MPs (Red Shirt version)

 Article 3. Anyone whose actions relating to political protests or political activities between 15 September 2005 and 10 May 2011 that were against the law shall be given amnesty. Any pending investigation on individuals who meet the criteria of Article 3 must cease and anyone who has partially served his/her term will be released immediately. However this article does not apply to terrorist acts or actions aimed to hurt the lives of others.

Draft IV: proposed by Samart Kaewmeechai and Pheu Thai MPs

 Similar to General Sonthi’s draft version

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