The folly of attempting to foist a total amnesty on the country is becoming clear, rapidly. It has sparked a remarkable response from across the entire political spectrum. The move by a small number of Pheu Thai MPs to pass this bill has effectively united political activists across the board.
Yellow and red shirts have not joined forces _ yet. But they have made it clear to the government that putting the proposal into law will have extremely serious consequences.
At a meeting that packed the auditorium of Thammasat University at Tha Prachan, anti-Thaksin Shinawatra groups gave fair warning. The meeting brought together more than 1,000 participants claiming to come from all 77 provinces.
They promised a mass protest next month if parliament passes the current amnesty bill. It should be recalled that "next month" begins on Friday. The threat of a mass rally, which is certainly credible, is also urgent.
The red shirts, meanwhile, have warned they will bring out at least 10,000 supporters in a separate protest against the amnesty bill.
This group is allied to Thaksin and a grassroots organisation that helped bring the government and Pheu Thai MPs to power in 2011. When the red shirts turn against a major policy decision like this, it should move the government to seriously assess its options.
There is, unfortunately, no sign that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra or her ministers are planning any reasonable response.
Ms Yingluck has said the amnesty bill is the responsibility of parliament, not the government. This is specious. As a key party figure and elected prime minister, she cannot hope to escape the cold fact that the government and the party are joined at the hip.
The premier already faces a serious threat of political unrest. In two weeks, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will read its ruling on Cambodia's clarification request on the Preah Vihear temple. So-called "patriots" have already begun protesting against the government's decision to submit the issue to the court in the first place. Riot police were called to Ms Yingluck's home last Sunday over the threat of violence. As the ICJ decision draws near, the prime minister should be preparing her response.
Now, for reasons that are still not entirely clear, she and her government and Pheu Thai have actually created a crisis where none previously existed.
An earlier, moderate amnesty bill by Pheu Thai's Samut Prakan MP, Worachai Hema, has been rubbished. That bill was balanced and arguably fair. Thaksin and his Democrat Party counterpart, ex-premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, for example, were not covered.
In the new version of the amnesty, all acts by everyone are to be legally forgiven. Thaksin has inconsiderately fanned the opposition's ire by voicing support, and reportedly demanding Pheu Thai MPs vote for it. To his credit, Mr Abhisit, the subject of a murder investigation, has opposed it.
That is what Ms Yingluck should do. The current amnesty proposal is clearly unacceptable to the nation. She should not oppose it for fear of violence. The threats of violence by anti-amnesty groups are out of line, and no government can tolerate them.
But Ms Yingluck should oppose this misguided amnesty proposal because it is a terrible idea. It is undemocratic to the extreme, and a weak attempt to reconcile and unite Thais. The prime minister should be leading the search for unity, not staying silent in the face of more division.
Latest stories in this category:
- Postscript: No longer British, but still the 'brown stuff'
- We must say no to the dictatorship of the minority too
- Media mired by binary blinders
- Sustainable tourism policy needed now
- Postbag: Power to the people
- An agnostic's view of the democracy cult
- Postbag: Suthep loses the plot
- Thais must call halt to fighting