A political amnesty is perceived as a potential solution to bridge the political divisions that have plagued Thailand for nearly two decades.
The Move Forward Party (MFP) has proposed a political amnesty for individuals charged in politically motivated cases since the February 2006 protests and the move could signify a step towards national unity.
The party said the proposed amnesty aims to bring an end to longstanding political conflicts. However, a critical flaw in the MFP's bill raises questions about the party's true intentions. The proposed amnesty covers all politically motivated cases since the protests by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) against the Thaksin administration on Feb 11, 2006, until the day the bill takes effect.
It excludes state officials involved in excessive crowd control, crimes against life under the Criminal Code, and offences under Section 113 of the Criminal Code, which deals with the seizure of power or the overthrowing of the constitution. In short, junta and coup makers are not deserving of an amnesty, nor included in MFP's proposed legislation.
It cannot go without saying that the MFP's bill also covers offenders under Section 112, the lese majeste law. This controversial inclusion is expected to lead to the bill's rejection in parliament, raising questions about the MFP's motives. To comprehend the situation fully, it's crucial to understand who stands to benefit from this proposed amnesty. Many political offenders from past protests, including both yellow shirts and red shirts, were convicted, served jail terms, and were subsequently released.
The primary beneficiaries are likely to be recent protesters against the Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha administration, most of whom are allies and part of the MFP network.
Nonetheless, regardless of their affiliations, political protesters who committed offences due to their political beliefs should be granted an amnesty. However, the amnesty for Section 112 offenders poses a different challenge. Given the controversial nature of this move, granting an amnesty to such offenders, rather than mending rift within society, could in fact spark new conflicts.
Those benefiting from a Section 112 amnesty, if the bill becomes law, would include three MFP MPs and two key figures -- Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, a progressive academic, and Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the former leader of the now-defunct Future Forward Party, who face lese majeste charges. That would invite criticism that the proposed amnesty serves the party's own interests.
The proposed bill may not survive passage in parliament yet the progressive party stands to benefit for gaining popularity among its supporters, as a political amnesty was a key policy in its recent election campaign. Although amending Section 112 is another crucial policy, the opportunity to achieve it has diminished, at least for the near future, after the MFP failed to form government.
As a result, including the Section 112 issue in the amnesty bill could be seen as justification for its policy campaign. If the MFP genuinely intends to help political offenders receive an amnesty and bridge political divisions, it must reconsider its stance. By leaving Section 112 aside and biding its time, the party would have a better opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to healing Thailand's political wounds and fostering true national unity.