Arch-enemies reach deal on amnesty

Core UDD and PAD leaders pitch two bills

Members of the red- and yellow-shirt political camps have reached an agreement to press ahead with a pair of political amnesty bills.

Pheu Thai Party list MP and red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) core leader Korkaew Pikulthong, and Parnthep Pourpongpan, a core member and spokesman for the yellow-shirt People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) met at parliament on Thursday at the invitation of deputy House speaker Charoen Chankomol.

The meeting was revealed Friday by the two leaders of the rival colour-coded groups.

They reached an initial agreement to issue two amnesty bills.

Korkaew (left): "Thaksin may be excluded." Parnthep: "Rule of law must stand."

The first bill involves the rank-and-file protesters who violated the emergency decree declared during the political protests five years ago, and the second bill would set up a committee to decide if anyone else should be granted amnesty.

Mr Parnthep said on his Facebook page Friday that Mr Charoen asked him about his views on an amnesty bill proposed by the Independent Committee for Promotion of the Rule of Law, chaired by Ukrit Mongkolnavin.

The bill seeks to grant amnesty to protesters who took part in the political rallies from Sept 19, 2006 to May 10, 2011. Mr Parnthep said the bill also covers the PAD so he felt the need to clarify his position on the amnesty issue to avoid any conflict outside of parliament after the bill reaches the House.

He also consulted with PAD core leader Sondhi Limthongkul and PAD lawyer Suwat Apaipak before deciding to attend the meeting.

Pheu Thai MP for Samut Prakan Worachai Hema, another red-shirt co-leader, and Wirapat Pariyawong, a public law expert, were also present at the meeting.

Mr Parnthep said he emphasised the PAD's stance that the rule of law must be upheld and those who broke the law must be punished. For those who were not guilty of crimes, there would be no need to grant them amnesty, he said.

He added that all stakeholders should get a voice in the amnesty, including the Democrat Party, the Pheu Thai Party and the wife of Gen Romklao Thuwatham — an army officer killed during the 2010 political violence.

Mr Parnthep said he agreed that the amnesty bill should follow the recommendations made by Mrs Nicha, Gen Romklao's wife.

She had proposed that an amnesty bill must not cover criminal offenders or those implicated in lese majeste cases.

The government must not lead the public to believe that an amnesty is reconciliation, she had also said. An amnesty would only be part of the effort aimed at national reconciliation.

Mr Parnthep said, however, Mr Korkaew proposed that the amnesty bill should cover additional groups of people.

The meeting then agreed to propose two separate bills.

The first bill would follow Mrs Nicha's proposal and the second bill would scrutinise other candidates for amnesty.

However, Mr Parnthep said, he told the meeting that the PAD would not join any committee set up under the bill because the PAD does not want to be used as a tool to probe amnesty claims.

According to Mr Parnthep, Mr Charoen said he will invite representatives from the government and the opposition to discuss the possibility of drafting the two amnesty bills.

Everyone would be given a chance to review the bills if they are drafted, he said.

Mr Korkaew said the meeting was only to discuss the amnesty bill issue.

The proposals from the UDD are different from those of the Nitirat group, which call for a blanket amnesty, Mr Korkaew said.

The UDD has proposed that the amnesty cover two groups of political offenders. The first group would comprise the rank-and-file protesters who violated the emergency decree. The UDD says they should be granted amnesty straight away.

The other group would comprise others who would be scrutinised by a committee to figure out who among them were protest leaders or instigators.

Mr Korkaew said the meeting also discussed the possibility of excluding deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra from the amnesty process.

"The outcome of the meeting has yet to represent [the opinions of] the entire group," Mr Korkaew said.

Mr Charoen said parliament could help both sides reach a resolution, adding that parliament would draft the bills to present to Pheu Thai and Democrat MPs for approval before resubmitting them to the House during this session.

He said he had now sought opinions from the PAD, UDD and the Democrats.

Representatives from Pheu Thai and former Pitak Siam leader Boonlert Kaewprasit will be asked shortly to share their opinions, Mr Charoen said.

He said if all sides manage to find a common position on the issue, any parliamentary process that follows should be swift.

Related search: thailand, reconciliation, red shirts, yellow, amnesty, agreement, thaksin, People's Alliance for Democracy, PAD, United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship

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Writer: Aekarach Sattaburuth and Mongkol Bangprapa