The ruling Pheu Thai Party has vowed to push through the controversial version of the amnesty bill offering a blanket reprieve to all those involved in the 2010 political violence despite fierce resistance from several quarters, including some red-shirt leaders.
Pheu Thai heavyweights on Tuesday insisted the party would move ahead with the bill, which observers expect to stir up a new wave of political conflict.
Former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, chief adviser to Pheu Thai's strategic committee, said yesterday he believed nothing was amiss with the revised version as it is intended to "reset the country".
The new version would end the political conflict which has continued for more than seven years since the Sept 19, 2006 coup. And it would return justice to those who were unfairly treated following the military putsch, Mr Somchai said.
He voiced sympathy for the families of the victims of the 2010 political unrest, but urged them to forget the past and look ahead to the future.
The victims' relatives have not accepted the proposed blanket amnesty because they want authorities responsible for the protesters' deaths in 2010 to face punishment.
A House committee scrutinising the amnesty bill on Friday voted to pass the amended draft legislation with the blanket amnesty proposal. The bill is now awaiting its second and third readings in parliament.
The original version of the bill put forward by Pheu Thai MP for Samut Prakan Worachai Hema would not have granted an amnesty to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, the protest leaders and the authorities responsible for the military crackdowns, but would have included everyone else convicted of crimes relating to political violence.
But the panel voted to approve revisions to Section 3 of the bill to grant a blanket amnesty to all people involved in political unrest, including protest leaders, soldiers, and authorities responsible for ordering the crackdowns.
The amended section would also invalidate the decisions of the now-defunct Asset Scrutiny Committee (ASC) which investigated alleged irregularities of the Thaksin Shinawatra administration after the 2006 coup, as well as those by the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which took over the ASC's cases.
The bill's critics believe the draft legislation will benefit Thaksin and they suspected it would lead to the return of his seized assets worth 46 billion baht.
Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Vejjayachai yesterday denied reports the party had put the brakes on the blanket amnesty push.
He said the blanket amnesty is necessary to restore the country, which has been plagued by a political divide, to normalcy.
The 2006 coup has created a number of "killer machines" for political rivals, he said.
But Deputy Commerce Minister Nattawut Saikuar, who is also a leader of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), and Pheu Thai Party list-MP Weng Tojirakarn, a leading red-shirt member, yesterday opposed the revised version of the amnesty bill.
Mr Nattawut said he personally did not want to benefit from the amnesty.
He said Democrat Party leader and former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Democrat Party MP for Surat Thani Suthep Thaugsuban, as well as UDD core members accused of being responsible for the violence, including himself, must prove themselves through the judicial process.
Mr Nattawut said he cared about red-shirt supporters and believed those opposed to the bill would petition the Constitution Court or other independent agencies against it.
Meanwhile, Mr Weng said he would ask the House scrutiny committee to review the alteration it had made to Section 3.
Mr Worachai said he had agreed with the panel's proposal to return justice to Thaksin and to nullify the ASC's decisions. However, he agreed that Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep do not deserve to be beneficiaries of the proposed blanket amnesty as he said the pair were responsible for the deaths of the red-shirt protesters.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said the revised amnesty bill belongs to lawmakers, not the government. She said the bill is not finance-related and there is no need for her to sign it.
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