Worachai bill stays top of agenda

Prayuth insists army will steer clear of amnesty bid

The Pheu Thai Party yesterday insisted it will press ahead with an amnesty bill proposed by Pheu Thai MP for Samut Prakan Worachai Hema, currently the first item on the House agenda.

The announcement comes in the wake of speculation that a charter amendment draft involving the election of the Senate may be moved to the top of the agenda, displacing the Worachai bill.

Pheu Thai executives, led by party leader Charupong Ruangsuwan and secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai, turned up in force at a press conference yesterday to set the record straight over the prioritisation of bills pending parliamentary scrutiny.

Mr Phumtham said the party's strategic committee met on Tuesday and resolved to proceed with the Worachai bill, which is slated for a House debate on Aug 7-8.

Mr Phumtham expressed confidence that the vetting of the Worachai bill will not lead to conflict as feared.

The bill, widely criticised as being too broad, is being introduced to end conflicts and benefit all groups regardless of their political affiliations, he said.

Mr Phumtham denied the party is under pressure to press ahead with the amnesty bill to pacify the red shirts.

"We are not seeking to maintain the support base more than we are looking to keep the peace," he said.

Mr Charupong, also the interior minister, said the ministry has conducted a survey of 75,000 people regarding the amnesty bid and found that the majority were in favour of it.

"This is why we want to push the amnesty bill," he said.

Udomdej Rattanasathien, chief adviser to the government whips, said seeking an amnesty is the party's core policy.

"We are obliged to look after the people who fight for the cause," he said.

Chief government whip Amnuay Khlangpha said yesterday the government whips have agreed to proceed with the deliberation of the Worachai bill.

"The House will be asked to pass or reject the bill for further reading. We won't push for three straight readings," he said.

He noted that after the Worachai bill, the House is expected to consider the 2014 Budget Bill and the 2.2-trillion-baht loan bill for transport infrastructure development.

According to Mr Amnuay, the three constitutional amendment bills are not yet ready for parliament.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday denied that an amnesty bill would be submitted to the Defence Council for consideration when it meets tomorrow.

She said that an amnesty bill is strictly parliament's affair.

Army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha insisted yesterday that the armed forces have no plans to get involved in the amnesty bid.

"The armed forces will not propose any non-military matters to the Defence Council for consideration," he said.

Another group of family members of red shirts killed in political violence yesterday submitted a petition to Mr Worachai, voicing support for his bill.

The families, led by Wuthipong "Ko Tee" Kotchathamakhun, claimed they had no part in an alternative amnesty bill proposed by Payao Akkahad, mother of Kamolkate Akkahad, the volunteer medic shot and killed during the mayhem in 2010.

Pheu Thai MP Weng Tojirakarn said the so-called "people's bill" proposed by Ms Payao would not help some red shirts, including those who were charged with arson attacks.

Pansak Srithep, a supporter of the people's bill, said the group is not concerned by Pheu Thai's stance.

The group yesterday submitted a petition to the Bhumjaithai Party asking it to support the people's bill.

Mr Pansak said the group has already submitted its petition to the Democrat Party and its next target is the Chartthaipattana Party.

He said the group needs the support of 20 MPs to table the draft amnesty law to parliament.

Bhumjaithai has agreed to table the people's bill at the party's board and MPs' meeting next week.

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Writer: Aekarach Sattaburuth, Manop Thip-osod & Wassana Nanuam