The fact that representatives of two rival political groups, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), met last Thursday to discuss the amnesty issue is a healthy political development.
Thanks to deputy House speaker Charoen Chankomol who arranged the unprecedented closed-door meeting, the two sides agreed in principle that an amnesty should be granted to the ordinary protesters of the yellow-shirt and red-shirt camps charged with defying the states of emergency during the anti-government protests between 2006 until 2011.
The UDD, however, has another agenda in mind _ the group also wants the amnesty to cover protest leaders who "did not give orders to their protesters to break the law" as explained by Korkaew Pikulthong, a UDD co-leader and Pheu Thai list MP who held talks on the amnesty issue with the PAD's Panthep Puapongphan.
The pro-government UDD has been persistent in its call for the Pheu Thai-led government to promulgate an executive decree to grant a blanket amnesty to all "political offenders" involved in protests since 2006, excluding those charged with criminal offences.
Two additional versions of a possible amnesty have also been proposed _ one by the Nitirat group of Thammasat University lecturers who favour a constitutional amendment bill, and another by Dr Ukrit Mongkolnavin, head of the government-appointed Independent National Rule of Law Commission.
The government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has tried to distance itself from the issue by referring it to the Council of State for scrutiny. But the government will have to face up to the matter eventually, as pressure for a decision is mounting, especially from the UDD.
The idea of an amnesty for protesters who defied the state of emergency but without committing other criminal offences such as looting, arson or shooting has been welcomed by most political parties.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva is among them. He says his party has no objection to an amnesty as long as the law covers so-called "political offenders" who defied the state of emergency only.
But besides this general agreement that only political as opposed to criminal offenders are to be exonerated, the amnesty concept must serve the purpose of reconciliation _ that is, it must be part and parcel of the reconciliation process.
As such, it must incorporate the following prerequisites: the truth about the political conflicts must be told to the public, and those who stand to benefit from the amnesty must repent or admit their wrongdoings.
Nicha Hirunburana Thuwatham, the widow of Col Romklao Thuwatham who was shot dead by suspected red-shirt gunmen at Kok Wua intersection in May 2011, says many offenders have yet to repent for their wrongdoings. "As there are still murderers walking free in our society, what good will the amnesty serve?" she asks.
The truth about some crimes in the conflict has yet to be told. For instance, we have yet to hear the full story about the killing of six innocent people at Wat Pathum Wanaram. Nor do we know the identity of the masterminds behind the 2010 violence.
Without the above prerequisites being met, an amnesty will fail to benefit the protesters who died in the clashes, and the innocent people affected by the political violence.