Amnesty bills: Haunted by ghost of Thaksin?

Amnesty bills: Haunted by ghost of Thaksin?

Six amnesty bills this time. 25 in 81 years of Thai democracy. Who gets amnesty in each version?

A political group rallies for the release of political prisoners earlier this year. An amnesty law will need to be accepted by all sides of the political divide before a breakthrough can be achieved. PATIPAT JANTHONG


Don't let the 'Thaksin ghost' haunt our reconciliation


Achara Ashayagachat

The different amnesty bills, although they vary in detail, cause similarly large levels of public anxiety. The problem is not the legal loopholes in each version, but the fear that, given the highly polarised politics involved, the government's amnesty push could lead to a deadly collision.

As Pheu Thai Party MP Worachai Hema's amnesty bill goes before parliament this week, it does so amid the Yingluck Shinawatra government's declining popularity, a new round of protests to topple the so-called proxy government of Thaksin Shinawatra, and rising political tensions reflected by the invocation of the Internal Security Act (ISA).

If anything, this shows that Thailand is still crippled by fierce conflicts over the ever-divisive Thaksin when the country badly needs to move forward.

The Pheu Thai Party cadres believe the new protest wave is part of a concerted effort by the old powers to stop the government's 2-trillion-baht infrastructure overhaul and the 350-billion-baht flood-prevention schemes.

If they materialise, these schemes will seriously undermine their old power and voting base, since the next election is anticipated as early as next year.

Though these claims are debatable, I would like to stress that we need to think clearly about the amnesty issue without being haunted by the "Thaksin ghost". It is normal for any society facing political violence to resort to amnesty laws to pave the way for a political breakthrough.

In Thailand's 81 years of democracy, we have had 25 amnesty bills, which includes the first one in 1932 and the most recent one in the form of a decree in 1992.

The majority of these amnesty bills aimed to free coup makers. The exceptions were those designed to free protesters, rioters and communist sympathisers involved in the October uprisings of 1973 and 1976.

The amnesty bill debate set for tomorrow is just the latest effort to absolve people from politically motivated offences.

Many people, however, still believe an amnesty might impede efforts towards political reconciliation.

Certainly, the prerequisites for reconciliation are that all players involved in a conflict must be prepared to give true and convincing explanations of why things happened the way they did in the leadup to political violence.

But I believe an amnesty is a necessary short-cut to alleviate the unwarranted suffering of those who took part in anti-government protests and were forced to resort to violence to counter the use of force by the state. This applies to both the yellow- and red-shirt camps.

What really happened and whether the violent protests were justified are subject to investigation.

What is important is to end the culture of impunity. The security forces can no longer think they can use excessive force whenever it is convenient.

In fact, the push for an amnesty bill is a political necessity for the Pheu Thai Party; it needs to show gratitude to its loyal supporters who are now locked up in prison or struggling with lawsuits.

There are six versions of amnesty bills altogether.

The first bill offers a blanket amnesty to all concerned parties. It was proposed last year by 2006 coup leader Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin.

A similar version was tabled by Deputy House Speaker Samart Kaewmeechai with more specific details on what constitutes political actions (defiance and impeding authorities' work, for example).

The Niyom Worapanya version, meanwhile, is more extensive by including the Sept 19, 2006 coup makers and those affected by the coup-appointed Assets Scrutiny Committee, as well as security officials who dispersed the protesters in all demonstrations after the coup.

The Nattawut Saikuar (United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, or UDD) version echoes the desires of the foot soldiers not to grant an amnesty to core leaders, be they from the Abhisit government, the UDD, or the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

It also specifies that the amnesty would not cover those charged with terrorism and killings.

The Chalerm Yubamrung bill is seen as a ploy to bring Thaksin Shinawatra home because it benefits all parties.

The Worachai bill is the one that has received the official support of the ruling party. But the relatives of those killed in the April-May 2010 crackdown, led by the mother of a volunteer medic and the father of a slain teenager, have also come up with their own proposal, which would not grant an amnesty to those who intentionally damaged private or state property, or who killed protesters or state authorities.

A clearer picture now emerges. An acceptable amnesty bill is one that frees the victims of violence, but not the instigators, be they state officials or armed protesters.

The amnesty short-cut is necessary because the present judicial process cannot produce justice. This is what many red-shirt supporters feel strongly about. While many of them are still behind bars, those who have been released on bail are still having to struggle with protracted lawsuits.

It should be noted that none of the amnesty proposals dare cover those charged with lese majeste offences.

If the amnesty bill debates focus on help for grassroots supporters, not the elites of various political factions, this would help pacify the sense of injustice among many red shirts whose animosity and distrust toward the government and the ruling classes is growing fast.

With less resentment and no more political ploys to exacerbate the political divide, reconciliation is possible.

If the Democrats think they can foil the amnesty effort by walking out of parliament, hoping for a House dissolution or military intervention, they need to think again.

Without the Democrats, parliament is still able to proceed, since there remains a quorum _ at least with the Bhumjaithai-Matubhum parties _ to constitute a legally-functioning parliament.

The calls for military intervention from anti-government groups have been met with public disapproval. Some might resort to violence.

But if the government keeps a cool head, violence can be averted.

But there are loose canons in the red-shirt movement, too. The movement leaders now lack unity and are competing against one another for ultimate recognition from their leader-in-exile. The last thing they should do is to mobilise their rural supporters to confront the anti-government protesters. That is a recipe for disaster.

Achara Ashayagachat is Senior News Reporter, Bangkok Post.

Learn from listening

Click play to listen to audio for this story, or download to save the file
: :


  • absolve: to state formally that somebody is not guilty or responsible for something - ปลดเปลื้อง, อภัยโทษ
  • aim: purpose; goal - เป้าหมาย จุดมุ่งหมาย
  • alleviate: to make something less painful, severe, or serious - ทำให้บรรเทา ทำให้น้อยลง
  • amid: during the time when something else is happening - ท่ามกลาง
  • amnesty: a situation in which a government agrees not to punish people who have committed a crime - การนิรโทษกรรม
  • anticipate: to expect something - คาดหมาย,มุ่งหวัง
  • anxiety: an uncomfortable feeling of nervousness or worry about something that is happening or might happen in the future - ความวิตกกังวล
  • assets: things owned, especially property and money - สินทรัพย์
  • authorities: the police, military or people in official government organisations who have the legal power to make people obey laws or rules - เจ้าหน้าที่ของรัฐ (ตำรวจ ทหารหรือผู้มีอำนาจ)
  • bill: a proposal for a law - ร่างกฎหมาย
  • blanket: affecting or aimed at everyone or everything equally, even when this is not sensible or fair - ครอบคลุม, กว้าง
  • breakthrough: an achievement that comes after a lot of hard work - การพัฒนาหรือการค้นพบที่ยิ่งใหญ่, การบุกเข้าไปในแนวเขตของคู่ต่อสู้
  • breakthrough: an achievement that comes after a lot of hard work - เหตุการณ์หรือการกระทำที่ทำให้อุปสรรคหมดไป; การบุกเข้าไปในแนวเขตของคู่ต่อสู้
  • cadres (noun): a smaller group of people within a large organization such as the army or a political party -
  • camp: a group of people who have the same ideas about something and oppose people with other ideas -
  • claim (noun): saying that something is true although it has not been proved and other people may not believe it - ข้ออ้าง ข้อกล่าวหา
  • collision: an accident in which a vehicle or person that is moving crashes into something - การชนประสานงา
  • committee: a group of people who are chosen, usually by a larger group, to make decisions or to deal with a particular subject - คณะกรรมการ
  • concerned: involved in something, or affected by something - ที่สัมพันธ์กับ
  • concerted effort (noun): when people or organizations work together in a determined way to achieve their goals -
  • conflict: an angry disagreement between people or groups - ความขัดแย้ง
  • constitute: to be considered to be something - ถือว่า, เห็นว่า, ประกอบด้วย
  • convenient: easy to use or suitable for a particular purpose - สะดวก
  • convincing (adj): in a way in which someone is able to make you believe that something is true or right - อย่างโน้มน้าว, แน่ชัด,
  • counter: to go against - ต้าน, แย้ง
  • coup: the seizure of power in a country by a group of people, usually members of the armed forces - รัฐประหาร
  • crippled: damaged and prevented from working properly - ที่พัง ที่ใช้การไม่ได้
  • debatable (adj): people could argue over it, because it is not clear that it is true -
  • debate: a discussion in which people or groups state different opinions about a subject - การอภิปราย, การโต้วาที, การถกเถียง
  • decree: an official decision or order made by a leader or government - พระราชกฤษฎีกา
  • defiance: the refusal to obey - การขัดขืน
  • detail (noun): the small facts or features of something - รายละเอียด, ส่วนเล็กๆ น้อยๆ, ส่วนย่อย
  • disperse: (of a crowd) to cause to separate and move in different directions, i.e., to end being a crowd - สลาย (การชุมนุม)
  • divide: a disagreement between people, especially between people who belong to the same group - การแตกร้าว, การแบ่งแยก
  • divisive: likely to cause arguments between people - อันจะก่อให้เกิดความแตกแยก
  • effort: an attempt to do something - ความพยายาม
  • election (noun): the process of choosing a person or a group of person for a position, especially by voting - การเลือกตั้ง
  • ever (adj): always being this way; never changing -
  • exception: someone or something that is different in some way from other people or things and so cannot be included in a general statement - เป็นที่แตกต่าง ที่พิเศษออกไปจากกลุ่ม
  • excessive: much greater than is usual; too much of something   - มากเกินปริมาณที่พอดี
  • explanation (noun): a description of how something happened or happens; giving the reasons why it happened - การอธิบาย, การชี้แจง, การขยายความ, คำอธิบาย
  • extensive: wide; great in amount covering a large area - กว้าง,ครอบคลุม,ถ้วนทั่ว
  • fierce: very strong - รุนแรง, ดุเดือด
  • force (noun): making someone do something that they don't want to do - การบังคับ
  • general public: people in general - ประชาชน, สาธารณชน, มหาชน
  • gratitude: a feeling of being grateful to someone because they have given you something or have done something for you - ความรู้สึกขอบคุณ
  • haunt: (of a ghost) to appear in a place repeatedly - หลอกหลอน
  • impede: to delay or stop the progress of something - กีดขวาง, กั้นขวาง
  • impunity: freedom from any risk of being punished for doing something wrong or bad - การได้รับยกเว้นจากการลงโทษ
  • infrastructure: the set of systems within a place or organisation that affect how well it operates, for example the transport and communication systems in a country - ระบบสาํธารนูปโภค
  • internal: existing or happening inside a person, object, organisation, place or country - ภายใน
  • investigation: the process of trying to find out all the details or facts about something in order to discover who or what caused it or how it happened - การสอบสวน, การตรวจสอบหาข้อเท็จจริง
  • issue: a subject that people discuss or argue about - ประเด็น
  • justified: showing that there is good reason for something - มีเหตุผลที่ดีพอ
  • latest (adj): newest; most recent - ] ล่าสุด, See also: ทันสมัยที่สุด, เกิดหลังสุด
  • lawsuit: a case that a court of law is asked to decide involving a disagreement between two  people or organisations - คดีที่อยู่ในระหว่างการฟ้องร้อง  
  • leadup (noun): the time period before an important event happens -
  • legal: relating to the law - เกี่ยวกับกฎหมาย
  • loophole: a small mistake in an agreement or law which gives someone the chance to avoid having to do something - ช่องโหว่ในกฎหมาย, จุดอ่อน, ข้อบกพร่อง
  • loyal: firm and not changing in your friendship with or support for a person or an organization, or in your belief in your principles - ซื่อสัตย์
  • majority: more than 50 percent of a group - เสียงส่วนใหญ่
  • materialise: to happen or become real - กลายเป็นจริง
  • necessity: the fact that something must happen or be done; the need for something; a situation that must happen and that cannot be avoided - ความจำเป็น
  • normal (adj.): typical, usual or ordinary; what you would expect - ปกติ, ภาวะปกติ
  • offence: a crime or illegal activity for which there is a punishment - การกระทำผิดกฎหมาย
  • overhaul: to improve something so that every part of it works properly - ปรับปรุงใหม่
  • parliament: the group of people who are elected to make and change the laws of a country; the building where members of parliament meet. - รัฐสภา
  • party (noun): one of the people or groups of people involved in a situation, an official argument or arrangement - คู่กรณี
  • pave the way for (verb): to create a situation in which something can happen - ปูทาง
  • player (noun): a person, organization or company involved in some activity or industry -
  • polarise: to separate or make people separate into two groups with completely opposite opinions - แบ่งเป็นฝ่าย
  • political prisoner (noun): someone put in prison (imprisoned) because they have opposed or criticized the government or for participation in political activity - นักโทษการเมือง
  • politically motivated (adjective): when an even happens for political reasons -
  • popularity: a situation in which someone or something is liked by many people - ความเป็นที่นิยม, ความเป็นที่ชื่นชอบ
  • powers-that-be: important people who have authority over others - คนมีอำนาจ, คนในตำแหน่งหน้าที่
  • prerequisite (noun): something that is needed before you can do something - สิ่งที่ต้องมีหรือทำก่อน
  • prevention: preventing something bad from happening - การป้องกันภ้ย
  • proposed: suggested as an idea for a group to consider - ถูกเสนอ
  • protest: a meeting or rally, sometimes forceful or violent, of people who strongly disagree with something - ชุมนุมประท้วง
  • protester: someone who shows that they disagree with something by standing somewhere, shouting, carrying signs, etc - ผู้ต่อต้าน, ผู้ประท้วง
  • proxy: a person or company who acts for another person or company - ตัวแทน
  • rally: a large public gathering of people to support someone or to protest against something - การชุมนุม
  • reconciliation: a new and friendly relationship with someone who you argued with or fought with - การทำให้ปรองดองกันอีก, การสมานฉันท์
  • reflect: to show - สะท้อน แสดงถึง
  • release: allowing someone/something to go free - การปล่อย
  • resort to: to do something extreme or unpleasant in order to solve a problem - ใช้มาตรการรุนแรงในการแก้ปัญหา ยุติปัญหา
  • resort to: to do something that you do not want to do because you cannot find any other way of achieving something - หันมาใช้
  • riot: a violent protest by a group of people - ความไม่สงบ การจลาจล
  • rioter: a person who protests violently about something - ผู้ก่อการจลาจล
  • scheme: a plan that is developed by a government or large organisation in order to provide a particular service for people - แผนการ โครงการ
  • scrutiny: careful examination of someone or something - การใคร่ครวญอย่างละเอียด
  • security: protection; safety from attack, harm, or damage - ความมั่นคง, ระบบรักษาความปลอดภั, ความปลอดภัย
  • security forces (noun): members of the military (army, navy, air force, and similar organizations) or police -
  • short-cut (noun): a short way to go somewhere, quicker than the usual way - ตัดทาง
  • similar: like somebody/something but not exactly the same - คล้ายกัน
  • so-called: used for saying that a particular word is usually used for referring to someone or something - ที่เป็นที่รู้กัน
  • society (noun): people in general, living together in communities - สังคม
  • stress: to emphasise something such as an idea, fact or detail; to explain why something is important - เน้น
  • struggling: having serious difficulties - มีความยุ่งยาก
  • subject to: to require something to be done; to make somebody/something experience, suffer or be affected by something, usually something unpleasant - ต้องมีการ..., ทำให้ได้รับ
  • suffering: physical or mental pain or problems - ความทุกข์ทรมาน
  • sympathiser: someone who approves of and supports someone or something - ผู้สนับสนุน, ผู้เห็นอกเห็นใจ
  • table a bill (verb): to suggest formally in a meeting something you would like everyone to discuss -
  • take part in (verb): to join and be part of some activity; participate as a participant - เข้าร่วม มีส่วนร่วม
  • tension: the feeling caused by a lack of trust between people, groups or countries - ความตึงเครียด
  • topple: to force out of power; to cause to fall (also oust, unseat or overthrow) - โค่นอำนาจ
  • undermine: to make someone become gradually less effective, confident, or successful - บ่อนทำลาย
  • unwarranted: not fair or necessary - ไม่ถูกต้อง, ไม่ยุติธรรม
  • uprising: a political situation in which a large group of people opposes and tries to defeat the government or a ruler - การลุกฮือขึ้นก่อการปฏิวัติ
  • vary: to be different in different situations - ปรวนแปร, เปลี่ยนแปลง, แตกต่าง
  • version: a particular form of something which varies slightly from other forms of the same thing - ชุด, เวอร์ชั่น
  • violence: physical force with the deliberate intention of causing damage to property or injury or death to people - ความรุนแรง, การใช้กำลังทำลาย
  • violent: involving or caused by physical force that is intended to hurt or kill somebody - รุนแรง, ร้ายแรง, สาหัส
  • voting base (noun): the voters who always vote for a political party -
  • wave: an activity or situation which is happening again or is being repeated after a pause -
Do you like the content of this article?