Ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra has brushed aside a threat by Pheu Thai red-shirt MPs to vote down the contentious amnesty bill, a party source said on Thursday.
The source said Thaksin telephoned on Wednesday to discuss the blanket amnesty push with red-shirt leaders in Pheu Thai.
Thaksin is widely viewed as the de facto leader of the ruling party and has remained in self-imposed exile since being sentenced in 2008 by the Supreme Court to two years in jail for abuse of authority in the Ratchadaphisek land sale case.
The source said Thaksin insisted that Pheu Thai MPs must vote in favour of the bill offering a blanket reprieve in its second and third parliamentary readings.
However, red-shirt MPs explained to him that while they did not oppose the granting of an amnesty to Thaksin, they did not want the proposed blanket reprieve to cover Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and Democrat MP for Surat Thani Suthep Thaugsuban, the source said.
Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep have been charged with murder in connection with the deaths of red-shirt protesters during the 2010 political violence.
At the time, Mr Suthep was deputy prime minister and director of the now-defunct Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation in charge of the red-shirt protest crackdown. Mr Abhisit was prime minister.
The red-shirt leaders said if Pheu Thai insists on pressing ahead with the blanket amnesty they would be unable to explain it to the relatives of people killed in the violence and they would have to vote against the bill, the source said.
Thaksin Shinawatra (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)
However, Thaksin brushed aside their threat to vote against the bill, as he was confident the remaining Pheu Thai MPs would still hold a majority in the House, the source said.
Thaksin voiced support for the revised version of the amnesty bill during an interview with Post Today, the Bangkok Post's Thai-language sister newspaper, during a stay in Singapore.
He claimed the amnesty push is not aimed at benefiting himself, but to allow the country to move forward from its political conflict.
Pheu Thai list-MP and red-shirt leader Korkaew Pikulthong on Thursday hinted at the possibility that red-shirt MPs may vote against the bill. It is also possible the party may allow MPs a free vote on the matter, he said.
However, Mr Korkaew said red-shirt MPs wanted the truth concerning the 2010 violence to come out in court and those responsible for the deaths of protesters had to be punished. The MPs will raise the issue at a party meeting next week.
A House scrutiny committee last week voted to revise the amnesty bill proposed by Pheu Thai MP for Samut Prakan Worachai Hema to expand its coverage from the original version.
The revised bill would grant a blanket amnesty to all people involved in political unrest, including protest leaders, soldiers and authorities responsible for ordering protest crackdowns.
The victims' relatives have not accepted the proposed blanket amnesty because they want authorities responsible for the protesters' deaths in 2010 to face punishment.
Critics believe the revised amnesty bill will lead to the return of assets worth 46 billion baht seized from Thaksin as a result of his abuse of power conviction.
Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Vejjayachai said the party will push ahead with the bill as it believed the draft legislation will resolve the political conflict.
Mr Abhisit on Thursday urged Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to choose between her elder brother Thaksin and Thailand.
"Right now, the prime minister must choose between her brother, her family and the nation. If you choose the country, you'll remain in the country. If you choose your brother, you'll be with him [abroad]," he said.
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