The controversial amnesty bill is the best way to extract the country from ongoing political conflict, Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri said on Thursday.
The bill will allow the country to wipe the slate clean, he said, arguing that parliamentary mechanisms should be used as a solution to the country’s pressing problems, since members of parliament represent all Thai people.
Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
The minister called on all parties to refrain from opposing the amnesty bill on the streets, suggesting people instead exercise their democratic rights in the next general election.
A Nida Poll survey on Wednesday found that the majority of those questioned by researchers are against the revised amnesty bill, which proposes to grant a blanket amnesty to all involved in the 2010 political violence, including protest leaders, soldiers, authorities and fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
But Mr Chaikasem dismissed the poll's findings, saying that it merely represents personal opinions, which differ greatly. He insisted that amnesty, and allowing democratically elected MPs to work on behalf of the public is the best way forward.
But relatives of those killed during clashes between red-shirt supporters and security forces in May 2010 are vehemently opposing the blanket amnesty bill.
Relatives’ representatives, including Phayao Akkahad, the mother of a 25-year-old nurse shot dead at Wat Pathum Wanaram, on Thursday submitted a letter to Pheu Thai MP for Chiang Rai and chairman of the committee considering the bill Samart Kaewmeechai, demanding he review Section 3 of the bill, which would grant an amnesty to all involved in the violent crackdown on protesters.
The letter was accepted by Pheu Thai MP for Bangkok Wichan Minchainand.
Mrs Payao said it is unacceptable to grant amnesty to the people who ordered the use of force on red-shirt protesters and that wrong doers must be punished, as the Pheu Thai party had repeatedly said. “The ruling party is not in a position to force us to forget the tragedy because we all cannot forget it,” she said.
She also disagreed with former premier Somchai Wongsawat, who asked all parties to sacrifice their desire for retribution for the good of the country, saying the push for the blanket amnesty bill is equal to killing red-shirts for the second time.
“We have already sacrificed a lot for the country. Our relatives were killed. Isn’t that a sacrifice? For his part, Thaksin should also make a sacrifice,” she said, adding that the relatives group is now planning to discuss further moves to oppose the amnesty bill.
She urged co-leaders of the red-shirt United front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) to take to the streets to rally against the blanket amnesty bill.
Asked whether she and other relatives of those killed in 2010 would join the planned anti-amnesty rally on Sunday, Oct 27, led by Sombat Boonngamanong, core leader of the Red Sunday Group.
Mrs Payao said she would not attend, but her group would take independent steps to oppose the bill.
Pussadee Ngamkham, a former nurse and red-shirt protester, said those who ordered the violent crackdown on protesters must face legal action in the courts, while the general public needed to be informed about what happened during the 2010 unrest.
“We are still being blamed as arsonists accused of setting fire to shopping centres in Bangkok. What should we do? Does the Pheu Thai Party want us to burn ourselves to death in front of the party’s headquarters?” Ms Pussadee said.