The bill granting an amnesty for political offenders, handed to the prime minister this week, promises to resolve the long-standing colour-coded conflict.
Ukrit: House scrutiny of measure could be finished in just 45 days
In an interview with reporter KING-OUA LAOHONG, the chairman of the Independent Committee for Promotion of the Rule of Law, Ukrit Mongkolnavin,who backs the bill, said it is not intended to exonerate anyone in particular, or advance anyone's self-interest.
Before going ahead with this amnesty bill, shouldn't we talk it through with the parties in conflict first?
We have talked for many years but the problems remain. Many people think we should free those who are in confinement first. We must not forget the political offenders who are still incarcerated. They are poor people.
The core leaders [of the protests] will be excluded from the proposed amnesty and they will be subject to the judicial process. We also must not forget that the people facing charges did what the core leaders couldn't do _ that is, they helped politicians win government seats and become cabinet ministers.
So, they deserve help in return.
But there are various groups which have proposed the amnesty [for political offenders], namely Nitirat and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), right?
Nitirat proposed the amnesty via a charter amendment and the government can't do much about it except take up the issue for consideration.
It would be a very slow process, and there is no telling when it will finish.
The UDD, on the other hand, is pressing for the amnesty by means of an executive decree, which needs vetting by the Council of State. [Eventually] it will require royal endorsement.
This, too, will not be quick and some people might think the decree is being stalled. Then the Constitutional Court might be asked to interpret the decree's constitutionality. The decree, once issued, cannot be reviewed.
With a bill, it is possible to rush it through in three straight readings. The good thing is that once a parliament panel is formed its scrutiny can be wrapped up in 1-2 days. In all, we can finish everything in 45 days.
We want the amnesty issue settled in parliament. But it must not be an imposition on anyone.
I believe if the government is committed to making the amnesty a reality, we can see [the bill passed into law] before the current legislative session expires on April 19.
Some people are curious to know whether the amnesty bill will extend its reach to those facing terrorism charges as well?
The bill grants an amnesty only to political offenders.
What do you say to people who call you a red-shirt lawyer serving the government?
It's up to them. Let us judge from one's deeds. The truth is the truth. Our committee listened to all sides and collected information across the colour-coded divide. When we worked, the government could not order us around.
The committee has been involved in the study of problems in the far South and the referendum on charter amendments. There are reports you receive directives from former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Is that true?
The question I must ask in return is who could possibly order me around?
Thaksin was once my student. I used to teach law at the police cadet school [Thaksin's alma mater]. I've never met Thaksin but someone once put a call through for me to speak to him. We talked about health and life in general.
I've been parliament president five times and I've never gone to meet any prime minister. They came to me instead.