Civic groups plan mass rally against amnesty bill

Civil groups opposed to the revised amnesty bill offering a blanket reprieve will organise meetings around the country next Sunday to decide when to call a mass rally against the controversial draft legislation.

  • Published: 20/10/2013 at 06:32 PM
  • Newspaper section: news

The meetings were announced after leaders of eight civil groups got together on Sunday to discuss their next move after a House committee scrutinising the political amnesty bill voted on Friday to pass a revised draft. They said a blanket amnesty is intended only to whitewash the crimes of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra. 

Among those attending were Suriyasai Katasila, coordinator of the Green Politics Group, Somkiat Pongpaiboon, president of the People Assembly Reforming Thailand (Part), and Nitithorn Lamlua, an adviser to the Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand, which has been staging an anti-government rally at Uruphong intersection.  

Mr Somkiat, a former core member of the People's Alliance for Democracy and a former Democrat MP, said leaders of the eight civil groups who met today will meet with their supporters and representatives from other allied groups in 77 provinces on Oct 27 between 9am and 6pm. 

They will schedule a date to organise a mass rally against the revised amnesty bill and any attempts to grant amnesty to Thaksin, but they will not disclose the protest venue yet. 

The participants will also decide whether they need to form a new group to represent all parties involved in the rally, Mr Somkiat said, adding that all groups of people are welcome to join it.  

Mr Suriyasai said opponents of the amnesty proposals were left with no choice but to prepare for a big demonstration because the government intended to issue a law that would destroy the country’s rule of law as well as exploit its majority in the House to bring society into a new round of political disorder. 

All allied groups would fight together and to the end under democratic means if the House passes the bill that can whitewash Thaksin.

The Green Politics Group coordinator said the planned protest would be open to all political parties and organisations but their participation must be accepted mainly by leaders of the civil groups first.

The House committee scrutinising the political amnesty bill sparked fresh controversy on Friday. The panel voted to expand the bill's coverage to include those accused of wrongdoing by the now-defunct Asset Scrutiny Committee (ASC), which was set up after the 2006 coup to investigate alleged irregularities of the Thaksin administration. 

The decision marked a major departure from the bill's original version, which would not have granted an amnesty to the fugitive ex-prime minister, protest leaders and authorities involved in the deadly 2010 crackdown on protesters. 

The Democrats said the proposal could violate the constitution and suspected it may be linked with attempts to return Thaksin's 46 billion baht in seized assets. 

The original version of the bill was put forward by Pheu Thai MP for Samut Prakan and a red shirt co-leader Worachai Hema.  

Meanwhile, Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, who sits on the scrutiny committee, said the opposition would wait to see the last version of the bill before deciding whether to file a petition in the Constitution Court.   

“I want to ask Prime Minister and Defence Minister Yingluck Shinawatra if she thinks our country is so rich that it can return [more than] five billion baht to Thaksin who was found guilty and is corrupt? Should the money be returned to him only because he was accused by the ASC? I want to ask that this amount of money [to be given to Thaksin] is fair with the people,” Mr Abhisit said. 

He was referring to concerns that the new proposal would allow Thaksin to reclaim as much as 57 billion baht from the government. The figure was made up of his seized assets plus interest. 

Latest stories in this category